Thursday, July 07, 2011

It never ends

So I’m talking with my buddy Matt the other day. Matt is also a new parent, with a child just a little older than Aki. And so he is also exhausted. And he says: “The thing they don’t tell you about parenting is how it just doesn’t ever end.”

I mean, sure, you can take breaks — get a babysitter, go to the movies. The baby goes down for naps and you can hurry up and shave or try to get, say, a blog post written. But for the last eight and a half months, even at my absolute farthest away from the babe, she’s in the back of my mind. I feel responsible for something — someone — like I never knew was possible. And it’s a pretty wrenching adjustment into the encumbered life, to be sure.

Not that long ago one of my favorite activies was to stare down a long Sunday afternoon and wonder what I was going to do with it. I’d contemplate which of several books to read, or noodle through the entrails of a poem, or just perch out on my porch with a beer, and consider my miniscule place in the universe. I’m a goddamned poet. It’s what I’m trained for. But I’m not alone. Most everyone has cherished, at some point, that kind of still-time in their lives. Maybe it’s the 5am sunrise after a Friday night out. Or the muffled solitude at the top floor of a library. But you take a breath, you note the momentary stillness, and you think “freedom.”

But I haven’t had that in eight months, and I don’t see a time where I’m likely to have that again for a while. And this is because I’m constantly on the verge of being needed. And not just needed, but NEEDED. There are barely enough hours in the day to get Aki fed (three solids, plus a couple bottles) napped, changed, socialized (have we spend time with other babies lately?) played-with (she’s learning to pass things from one hand to the other. We practice), nevermind grocery shopping (low on diapers!), house cleaning (yep, that’s a wad of cat hair in her hand), or the part-time data entry and editing I’ve actually been paid to do. And whatever it is I’m working on, I drop it all in a heartbeat as soon as I’m NEEDED again. It’s exhausting. It never ends.

On the other hand, (and how do I put this) … I’m needed. And not just needed, but NEEDED. It’s a particularly quotidian joy to be depended on like this, but it is absolutely a joy. Absolutely. And it comes fraught with the knowledge that I will always and forever be letting Aki down. Because I can’t be there for her the way she expects me to. I can’t catch her every single time she falls. I can’t immediately tell if the cry means “food now, kplsthnks” or “this teething thing sucks” or “how in God’s name do you not notice that awful smell in my pants.” But wow, is it actually very nice to be NEEDED. I have no worries about whether what I’m doing has purpose. I have, at this moment, no existential concerns.

It’ll be a joy - truly - to have free time again, when she’s older, and carving out a life that’s separate from mine, and no longer expects me to catch her every time she falls. But it’s pretty great right now when she wakes up and, looking for me, sees that I’m there and knows that everything is all right.

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