Barnaby Turns Three

I almost never sit down in front of this empty blog box without an agenda. I almost always have some sense of where this is all gonna go, and I kinda feel like I know how to land the little points and then tie them all together to something larger, but today I’m really at a loss.

Three years ago, right now, Jordana and I were walking up Ditmars Blvd. to get on the subway to go to the hospital. At the last minute, a yellow cab drove by, and we hailed it and got a ride in. We decided that if we got there early enough, we might not have to worry about getting a room, and it turns out we were right. By ten thirty or so, we were all hooked up and chilling in a room.

When the actual pushing started, and Jordana’s body started contorting in ways that I still don’t understand, I got a little lost. Before this day, I’d never quite been able to be a bit player in a larger drama, I was always starring in the movie being made of my life, and suddenly, here was a story that I was only barely involved in, but I still had to be there. The only time my full brain engaged was when the nurse said, “Daddy, you may want to start taking pictures now…” Barnaby, at that point, had been in the world for about three minutes.

I know less now about being a father than I did before Barnaby was born, simply because the one thing I’m absolutely *sure* about is that I don’t know anyone else’s kid, and nobody else knows mine. People talk a lot about failing as a parent, but in order for something like this to be pass/fail, there has to be a goal. There can’t be a goal when you’re talking about the full breadth of a person’s existence. There are no good fathers and bad fathers, we can’t say. We do damage to our children, and we bandage their wounds, and who knows which is good and which is bad?

But I know Barnaby. There are ways that he is like me, but I don’t know how much of that is attributable to how I’ve raised him or genetics or anything. I have a lot in common with my friends, and it didn’t take genetics or circumstance. Plus, many of the things that he does have changed in a year, and will likely change again. I could try to force what I see in him into some kind of narrative, I could describe him as “creative” or “anti-social” or “enthusiastic”, but the truth is that he’s also the opposite of these things as often as he embraces them.

In the last two months, he has fallen deeply in love with drums. Except, of course, that’s only partially true, he’s fallen in love with videos of animated drums that play themselves. But he found some knitting needles and some empty boxes and he lined everything up and started playing. For his birthday, his family and friends got him drums, and he just loves them. He just loves them.

But when I start hearing voices around me saying “when he’s a world class drummer, you’ll be glad you got him these drums!” I find myself bristling. What happens if he’s just an average drummer? Or, what if his attraction to the drums was a math thing, or if he actually just loves the animation, and he’s three (which seems BY FAR to be the most logical explanation.) Will I look back on these drums and think, “well, *that* didn’t lead to anything. I guess I’ll just have to try soccer. Or English. But GOD FORBID, he ends up being the fifth best plumber in all of Queens…”

I really don’t think I’ve molded him at all, I haven’t done anything with him other than to observe and respond. Honestly, I’ve never done letters with him, or numbers. I’ve never done shapes and colors. I almost always would rather make up a story or a song than sit and read. And we’ve spent a lot of hours watching Horton Hears a Who and The Cars Movie and the Baby Einstein videos (which he still loves, by the way.) He’s a person that I’m meeting and getting to know every day, just like Jordana, just like my brothers and sisters. He seems to be changing based on his own choices to do shit, and I’m just laying down track in front of him. I haven’t even looked where the tracks are going.

But he’s mine. More than any other person in the world, I get to love him. Just based on the sheer volume of *time* more than anything else. He’s my kid.

I should say, as much as I’ve done almost nothing to mold him, he’s changed me entirely, and for the better. It took me months and months of dizzying vertigo to start to come to terms with what happened, but I think it was a series of things.

First, that day in the hospital, when I realized that I wasn’t starring in this movie anymore, that led me, after some time, to realize that my little problems and little successes were just not that important. I wasn’t the main character, I was the dad, and my kids were gonna be the main characters. I think I resented it at first, but soon, it began to feel… liberating.

That caused me to shift my perspective a little bit, away from needing to be the center of attention, and more towards being a facilitator of other people’s dreams. I acted in one or two more shows, but started turning stuff down and started focusing on simply producing. Instead of being the guy waving to the crowd from the back of the float, I got inside and started driving. And suddenly I was FAR more successful doing that, both personally and professionally, than I had ever been before.

Barnaby changed me, being a father changed me, and all of it for the better. This is luck, I suppose. I know that there are a lot of people out there who have never spent enough time worrying about their own lives and when they have children, they just completely disappear, so I can’t say this is for everyone. But for me, it’s possible that this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

But he is still a mystery to me. I feel like I haven’t done him right, with this blog, I haven’t said the right thing today on his birthday, and I’ve done a terrible job of telling his story over the last three years. But I think that’s because this blog has always been me tilting at windmills, and it’s really, really hard for me to talk about him. Here or anywhere. It’s the first thing in my life where I just… I feel like it’s personal.

I don’t know how smart he is. I don’t know how agile he is, or how tall he’ll be. He’s a little bit fussy with food, but he responds pretty well to hassling… I just don’t know what to say. Our days are filled with a lot of time when we’re both in the same room but we’re not really doing stuff together, and a lot of time when we’re playing with the same toys or the same games. On a grand scale, he’s the purpose of my life, but moment-to-moment, I spend a lot of time pretty bored. The look on his face when he asks to play Ca
ndyland is worth it, despite the fact that I literally *never* want to play Candyland. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all.

The one thing that I know for sure is that he’s very affectionate. When he hugs you, his face disappears into your neck, when he sits next to you, he scoots over so he can be closer. He leans, wherever you are, he leans that way. If you’re sitting on the floor, he’ll walk up behind you and put his arms around your neck and push his face into your back.

I keep looking for an exit for this post, but I’m just gonna jump off here. He loves us, and we love him. Maybe none of this is extraordinary, maybe we all love each other just the average amount that an average person loves their family, but, in terms of my life, my narrative, the changes that have happened to me since he was born have all been for the better. I don’t know if I’m a good father, but since I’ve had him, I’ve been a good man, and I hope, in turn, he’s learning to be the same.