If I’m being completely honest, I had no idea what I was doing four years ago. I still vividly remember my baby son’s mother walking out the front door for her first day back at work and as she drove off, thinking, “O.K., now what?” If it were a movie, the camera would have started with a close-up of me standing there at the door, baby in one arm, and then slowly pulled away as we continued to stand there with equally helpless looks on our faces.
I had some notion of what to do—where the bottles were, how to feed the baby and change his diaper—but up until that point, we’d not spent huge blocks of time together. In fact, I’d avoided precisely that, instead choosing to spend my free time next door drinking beer.
As doomsday neared, I continued to avoid the task at hand. How difficult could it be? Short answer: hard as hell. Babies require constant attention. Even when they’re sleeping, you have to check on them constantly to make sure something hasn’t gone wrong. On top of that, my son didn’t sleep more than 30 minutes at a time. When he finally did doze off mid-morning, I had priorities: eat some breakfast, use the bathroom, then drink a cup of coffee while smoking a cigarette. The problem was that the slightest creak of a floorboard or the hinges on the front door could jar him awake. It rarely worked out for me.
The other challenge was the boredom. There’s not a lot you can do with babies. You can feed them, bounce, or hold them. Once my son started to crawl, it made a big difference because we had a room barricaded in the back with padding on the floor. I’d set him down and as he slowly explored, I’d crack open a book, like Ron Rosenbaum’s Explaining Hitler, which I recall reading during those days. That’s the kind of mood I was in.
Lastly, there was the isolation. Most stay-at-home moms have a network of women to get together with and bond over their experiences. That never really seemed like an option for me. If anything, I felt like a male interloper, and so me and my baby spent long blocks of time together. I talked to him and kissed him. We went on lots of drives and walks, and we also danced quite a bit, in particular, to The Clash’s Sandinista and its crooked, crooked beats. That way I could keep it interesting for me while trying to teach him a little rhythm.
A few years later, I’m still at it, but we’ve added another baby son. While daddy daycare continues to kick my ass, this time I know what I’m up against, at least when it comes to the infant. The real challenge is the baby from way back then who is now a know-it-all kid. He and I are still figuring out how to do things, a little worse for the wear, but also a bit triumphant. We’ve made it this far, and as Luther Vandross once sang, ain’t no stoppin’ us now.