Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lucas Emmett Fletcher, part two: "Your life is never the same" and other weird, cryptic phrases

So if most guys are like me, at least part of your mind views such phrases as "you instantly fall in love, the kid immediately becomes something you'd die for, your whole world changes, you're never the same" and other such melodramatic fuzz as unlikely, alarming, strange, or just something not to be thought about at all. Emotional discussions are voodoo, witchcraft, bone-rattles and not to be trusted for most men. Once they have a kid, most guys are uncomfortable trying to understand/explain their emotions, so they just fall back on the tired old cliches and call it a quick day.

Which, sadly, doesn't do a friggin thing to help the next guy in line, eyeing the strange cliches with a sense of distaste and suspicion. So let me attempt to break down into reasonable, non-mystical bits the chain of thoughts and realizations that have been going on in my head for the last ...yeesh, I guess it's been 72 hours, now.

1. Love at first sight is only for moms and men who haven't SEEN yet.
K, look. If you're lucky, when your kid comes out, you've got a pinkish-red Winston Churchill with bluish extremities. If you're unlucky, you've got a greyish-blue creature from the Black Lagoon, covered in nasty, cheesy crap. Yeah - could look that bad. So maybe moms are hardwired for love at first sight, but we're not.

My first reaction (we were lucky, he looked pinkish-red) was to be very curious and generally happy, but happy in that "Friendly dog seeing new people" kinda way - wanted to sniff and poke and touch (didn't want to sniff his butt, and given what's come out since, glad that's true) but "love at first sight" not so much. Lucas seemed like a pretty cool dude, but wasn't ready to sacrifice life and limb quite yet. For me - and I suspect most guys - there has to be a trigger.

Got kiddo cleaned up, wife got first dibs on holding kiddo (and fair enough, given her recent activities) and then kiddo got handed to me. Now, Lucas was very much unkeen on being tossed around - I mentioned that last entry - but sitting on mom, now that was okay. I fully expected that when he got handed to me, the horrible screaming he was doing the moment he was pulled away from mom would continue.

The moment he landed on my chest, his head rammed straight into my neck, little fists grabbing.... and he shut up. Mind you, for an agitated baby, that doesn't mean silence - but the screaming stopped. Glorps, gurgles, chirps continued - but he felt safe here, listening to my voice, holding on to me for as much as his now three-minute-old-life was worth. Then it went through my head:

"This kid knows as clearly as I do that we are family. And he NEEDS me." That's what did it. Babies don't need you like your wife needs you, like your coworkers need you, like your dog needs you. Wife would eventually get over you, coworkers would hire someone new, even your dog can scrounge. Your kid? That kid's one shot at survival is YOU, sucka. Obviously they don't know it in those terms, but I can't imagine the kind of fear/anger that must go through a newborn's undeveloped noggin. Hearing a voice they heard while they were inside, a heartbeat nearby... they need that. Something fierce, and you provide it - and so kiddo calms down.

So yeah. Not so much love at first sight, but pretty quickly something will trigger. Maybe you'll notice something in the kid's face that is unmistakeably you or your wife, or maybe kiddo will hang on to your finger like it's his only tether for the world, or maybe he'll quiet down from a desperate fuss - but something will trigger that your unconscious will react to in some way.

"The moment you see your baby, the whole way you look at the world changes."
Yeah, again fellas - not so much. Maybe women are hardwired, but we take a minute to figure this kinda crap out. And when you do, it really isn't soul-shattering or profound or "knock-you-off-your-feet" type stuff; or at least it wasn't for me.  Attempting to explain: Shortly after your kid is born, there's a federal law or some such that says they have to put these special eyedrops into your kid's eyes. (Had something to do with a rampant STD problem  in the 60's and blindness because it got in the kid's eyes on the way out ...yes...ew.) Now in principle I understand this and I'm fine with it. In reality, when the nurse put the drops into Lucas's eyes he went from "pretty annoyed" with the world to "absolutely furious and in pain." Remember what I said about being afraid that I'd beat the screaming jesus out of the doctor? Yeah, well. As soon as the thought went through my head "that nurse just hurt my son" I had to quietly walk to the other side of the room, behind the curtain, and get my temper back under control. I found myself quite unexpectedly VERY angry - and I've usually got a pretty good sense of what's going to trigger my temper.

I was kinda surprised and I thought on it for a minute. I had never really realized "Lucas is important to me; I love him" or anything like that. It wasn't earth-shattering when I DID realize it. It simply... was. Much in the same sense that if you turn on a light switch, you're not conscious of the photons bouncing to the floor and then to your eyes. You're not aware "the light is turning on." It simply is on - and, if you looked around, you would have no evidence the light was ever NOT on. The light doesn't leave record of when it wasn't that way... it just is on, you accept it, and you move on.

That's basically how it was with Lucas. There was never a heart-rending moment where I realized I'd throw myself into the path of danger for him, or anything like that. It simply... "was." The kid had, quite unaware, become absolutely vital. Nothing weird or insidious - I simply recognized that the light was on. I didn't know quite when it had happened, nor why - but I surely knew it had. Lucas was now protected material in the same way my wife was - and woe betide anything that threatened him.

Your whole world view doesn't change, your life doesn't "begin all over again", your perceptions of reality aren't torn asunder - just, quite without expectation and reasoning, there's a new notch on your "things to care about" ladder. Very high on the ladder, and very permanent.

Oh, right, the last one for today:

"Your life starts all over again," or one of a dozen variations on that theme.

What-ever. Simple as that. I got home, I was very happy to play with my kid, but y'know what? I still likes  my video games. I still talk MMORPG shop with my guy friends. I suspect that if I'm a particularly spiff dad, I'll still get to go out this Wednesday night with the guys for 3-4 hours. I still have hobbies I love, and frankly, now I dream of the day when I can get the kid in on them too. (Fletcher father and son dodgeball team? Bet your ass, bubba.)  Yeah, I spend some time staring at the kiddo sleeping (cause that's about all he does, really, but that's cool) and yeah, I spend some time thinking about the future - but then there's 23 more hours left. Lemme tell ya, you'll be awake for a few more of those than you might be used to, as well.

Here's the thing: If your life "starts all over again" YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. Your hobbies need to stay intact. Your stress relievers DEFINITELY need to stay intact. Your relationship with the woman you love absolutely MUST stay intact!! Yes, she's mom now. She's the caretaker of that which is vital - but she's also still that woman you wanted to drag into the closet nine months ago. (And if you're lucky, that's While the doctor may say "nothing here shall pass" for a month and a half - and yeah, that sucks too - your relationship with your wife shouldn't change. She's still the hottie that gets your attention at any party, the woman who laughs at your jokes and puts up with you farting at her. (Okay, well mine thinks it's funny, sorry if yours doesn't.) Baby is vital and a cool part of your life - but don't stop being the slick dude that you'd want baby to meet, nor the great fella that your wife wanted to marry. Stick with that! Adjust for less spare time, and tweak so you can respond to baby emergencies if they arise.... 

but you're still an excellent dude, and lord of your manor.

Now if you'll excuse me, the lady of this particular manor wants me to do something. So much for being ruler of the castle, eh?

-MT out.