I’m just over a year into this crazy venture and already the newsworthy milestones grow farther apart. Ivy’s 13 month mark came and went with little fanfare. Subsequent baby teeth just don’t seem to emerge with the same pizzazz as the first one or two. The milestones that do make the grade, though, really shake things up. Literal baby steps fill me with simultaneous joy and terror. Her first word (“zebra”) materialized to her mother’s delight – I would’ve preferred “bourbon” or “Michael Jordan,” but it was pretty cool nonetheless.
My sincere apologies to those who’ve come to find my final verdict on fatherhood. Ask me in a few decades perhaps, No, this will be mostly observational in nature, as, while the signature moments begin to pace themselves, the wonders never cease. So, I think I’ll use this chapter to detail a few phenomena that have caught my attention since my last.
Baby hand-speed and accuracy
It all began on Christmas Day. I was visiting my brother (R.J.) and family as my wife (Megan), daughter and I made the usual holiday rounds. We were all sitting on his large L-shaped couch, my wife and I on the far end, my brother holding Ivy at the bend. The conversation was joyful, animated, and saturated in holiday spirit. R.J. lifted Ivy close to his face, perhaps for a loving kiss or a nuzzle. Hwap-thawp-pip! At a speed almost imperceptible to the human eye, my big bro caught a three-piece special from my daughter – all with the same hand, like a cat paw. There was a split second of surprise, then uproarious laughter and hysterical tears. We laughed about it for days it seemed. My laugher stopped about a week later. The daycare Ivy goes to sends us pictures throughout the day, one of which, in this instance, was Ivy sitting face-to-face with her best friend William. It was adorable until I had the thought: “Oh no… Maybe William is a little too close. William may be about to catch those hands” I thought. It was then I realized this is something that I’m going to have to worry about at some point, perhaps in the very near future. Even scarier, is the proposition of having to attempt to contain my laughter when it happens.
Speaking of the gift-giving season, throughout the past year I’ve come to realize that I have an unanticipated duty, being a parent of baby/toddler – one that I’m woefully and comically under-qualified for: Excitement Proxy. See, when gift-giving occurs, there’s some unstated expectation of gratitude. Unfortunately, Ivy doesn’t give a shit about most things if they’re not delicious, fun to bite, or random packaging, leaving the burden on myself and Megan to fill that awkward void where a positive reaction should be. Of course, Megan is a beacon of delight and child-like exuberance so these moments only give her a good excuse to show her true self. I, on the other hand, am a beacon of relaxation, contemplative gazes and silence, making the job of excitement proxy exceedingly difficult and unnatural for me. It’s not that I’m a curmudgeon or anything like that – it’s that few things truly excite me to the point of reaction (a list that includes tasty food, basketball and cancelled plans).
It’s not that I’m not excited about the gift, either. On the contrary – the generosity my friends and family have shown for my little girl is overwhelmingly beautiful. It almost brings me to salty eye waters… er, I believe we’re calling them tears now. It’s that my emotions are more like a microwave than an open fire – you don’t see the heat but you should trust that something is happening.
Are you a sports fan? Remember when Derrick Rose hit that game-winner vs. the Cavs in the 2015 playoffs and Joakim Noah hoisted him in celebration, while his teammates and fans expressed their elation but Derrick just had that blank stare on his face (though you know he was overcome with excitement)? That’s me.
Getting used to the right of way
I’m a gentleman if nothing else, and furthermore, I respect and appreciate what women go through to bring our children into this world (even the bad ones take effort). Because of this, I tend to go out of my way to exhibit proper decorum and be generally mannerly – I give up my seat, I’ll put your bag in the overhead for you, I hold the door. But a strange thing has happened since I’ve started toting Ivy around. Ladies have started giving me the right of way and I’m not sure what to do. Every fiber of me is screaming “No! You’ll be persecuted for the rest of your days if this lady doesn’t walk into this store before you do.” But you know what? Nothing does happen. I mean, I feel weird about it but security doesn’t immediately come and escort me out and there’s never a panel of old school gentlemen shaking their heads disapprovingly on the other side either. I feel kind of kingly if I’m being honest.
In general I think most ladies are happy to let me go first – delighted, even, to see a dad putting in time with his daughter. So heartwarming, they say to themselves. Still, I wouldn’t say it’s 100% of ladies. I get the sense some feel like they’re being displaced.
Ok quick story: Like most of my adventures, this one takes place in the supermarket. Or, rather, on the way into the supermarket. I (pushing Ivy in her stroller) reached the entrance to the market in the exact moment Fiona did (I don’t know the woman’s name but we’re calling her Fiona – but she goes by “Fi” for short). Being the gentleman that I am, there was a slight tilt of the brow and palm-up hand gesture signaling Fi ahead. “No, no” Fi said. “You have the baby.”
This is actually the end of the story but what I want to highlight is how Fi said what she said, or at least what I perceived.
It wasn’t like a – “Go ahead, you have the baby… of course you should have the right of way. I’m delighted to allow you and your precious angel baby to proceed into Wegmans ahead of me, and a very good day to you and what must be a lovely wife of yours.”
It was more like a – “Go ahead, you have the baby… I mean, you didn’t have the baby. You’re just holding it. I personally pushed out like three of those things with no epidural or anything, but no, no, you go ahead. You’ve earned it or something.” – almost like she wanted to go first but physically couldn’t because of some vow or code.
I’ve got more examples to share but that feels like a pretty good place to stop for now. Here’s a little bonus observation to part with: I’ve discovered a new kind of currency – when I’m holding Ivy and she’s tired and tucks her little arms underneath herself and just lays her head on my shoulder or chest. I’m not sure I can spend that anywhere but it sure does feel like riches.
Verdict: Incomplete (but so far so good)