What’s Next.

I’m not an intensely intelligent man, and I’m certainly not even the tiniest bit superstitious, but I am proud of my ability to make wishes. I know you’re supposed to be careful what you wish for, but unless you’ve played the countless hours of Dungeons and Dragons that I have, you haven’t had enough real world *practice* when it comes to wishes. The Dungeon Master is just ACHING to screw with you if you don’t word your wish in the right way, if you try to sneak in a conjunction or a disconnected qualifier. I know, I was more often the DM, and I loved waiting for the stray “AND”, which would signal the end of the wish.

Everyone knows, you can’t wish for one thing AND something else. That’s two wishes.

Ever since Jordana and I began dating, (and honestly, it’s absurd that we dated for years before getting married, I was hook-line-n-sinker from about the sixth month on), I would use the first star of the evening, the abandoned eye-lash and even the occasional birthday candle to make the same wish, year in and year out.

I wish that we were in a position where we could comfortably have kids.

See what I did there? You can’t ask for kids straight up, there are sweet teenage kids who said, “I wish I could have kids someday” and the DM was all, “Okay. HOW ABOUT NOW!!!” and they’re all “Shit, I guess Junior Prom is out…” And you can’t ask for money, straight up, or you’ll totally get Monkey-Paw’ed. End up getting an insurance settlement or something, or suddenly finding yourself on the nice end of a good drug-dealing business. “What?” says the Dungeon Master, “You asked for a hundred thousand dollars, how else was an idiot like you gonna make that kind of money?”

So, I used my wishes to create a catch-all, that we would be in a situation where having kids is something we could handle comfortably. The DM was backed into a corner, and we got our wish. We have a lot of help, we’ve been incredibly lucky with jobs and work and our home, and our wish was granted. Eyelashes and First Stars are pretty powerful, but I think it was the four or five Birthday Candles that put us over the edge.

It wasn’t until Barnaby actually showed up that I realized – I got Monkey-Paw’ed after all. I was terrified. I didn’t have the first idea of what I was doing, and I didn’t feel anything for this baby. Nothing. He didn’t look like me, he had blue eyes, he was long and skinny and didn’t seem to recognize me. And he mal-functioned all the time, screaming and passing out and puking. I had always seen myself as a point in the universe, there was a place where I was, clearly defined, a spot on the map, and that was completely blotted out now. I was right on the edge of panic every second of every day, and the only respite were the few times that I dropped right into panic and curled up in a corner somewhere and cried.

I mourned. I sweated. I stank, I smelled, every day, I smelled like that horrible flop-sweat smell, that ‘going up on your lines’ sweat, where a two second delay feels like a minute, a three second chunk of time feels like an hour, a five second pause feels like a day. I counted my life like I was on the treadmill, saying to myself  “I can do this for thirty more seconds, and then I’ll jump off” and after thirty seconds passed, I would say, again, “I can do this for thirty more seconds, and then…”

I hated it. It taught me a new appreciation for what hating something is. I hadn’t really understood what hate was until I had a child. I thought that I hated bullies at school, that I hated bad theater, or that I hated my sister’s ex-boyfriends, but being a father taught me some perspective. All of those things are finite, all of those things can be walked away from, and all of those hatreds are clean, unpolluted with expectations or my own failures. Having a baby taught me a new kind of hate, because I didn’t hate him, I hated myself for KNOWING I could never be the father he needed, that I couldn’t do for him any better than I was done for. It was a hatred I couldn’t escape.

So, it was ME that was the problem. This boy, this broken, puking fleshbot, needed a father and I couldn’t do the job. So, I had to start small and pretend.

My God, it’s incredible to look back on. When you wake up after three hours of sleep, and you see that the day stretched out in front of you has no room for more sleep in it, no room for exercise or TV or writing music or following your own dreams, when you see there’s nothing in it but screams and vomit and a baby who can’t see, can’t crawl, can’t hold his head up… there is sorrow there, there is darkness there, but when the night comes, and there’s no sleep again, and there’s a quick nap, and the next day rolls on to you, and the night comes, and the days disappear, and the baby still can’t speak, can’t lift his head, can’t do anything but scream and puke and pass out… the sorrow turns to darkness.

And I despaired, I did. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

So, I began to work without sleep. And I began to relax when he did, to sleep when he was unconscious, instead of standing over him in horror, wondering when he would wake up. I began to enjoy the moments when one of our parents had him, to walk away. The spot that I had once been began to have a defining space around it again.

And it all started changing. So fast. The days, the minutes, felt epic and harrowing, but the months began to spin by. My worry had gone from SIDS to… baby gates? He’s walking? He’s pulling things down, putting things in his mouth. And my concern started to go from baby gates to… friends? He’s getting along with people? Is he fighting for what he wants, but still respecting his buddies?

And, I look at myself and I realize… I get up every morning. I finish my jobs on time, I show up for my friends. I can be turned to, relied upon. This baby needed a father, and I knew I couldn’t do it because I was a child myself, and now, three years later, I can say with total sincerity… I’m his father. I’m a grown man, and when he needs me, he knows he can count on me. I am here.

I can’t remember now why I wanted children so badly. My understanding of what children were, before I had them, is so utterly foreign to my perspective now that I can’t even conjure it. Maybe I thought I would be rolling around with a three year old, laughing and playing. And I do that now, I do it all the time. But that wasn’t what I wanted then. And the rolling around now means something, because the years spent trying to make sure he didn’t DIE taught me to be a man who understands what that rolling around means. It means I’m his father.

Now, I am that point in space that I once was, but there is an invisible tether that connects me to two other points on the map. One tether goes to my son, the other to his mother. And the further apart we are, the three of us, the tighter that tether pulls, so that the only time we can really relax is when we are, the three of us, all in the same room. That’s when the tether disappears, and we become one larger point on the map.

Quite simply, I didn’t know that would happen. I knew there was the possibility that I would change, but I didn’t know in what way. And I had no idea that being a father would make me into a father. I didn’t understand that we are not static, that we aren’t merely the sum total of what we have done, but that we also can become anything we need to simply by *doing the new thing for long enough*.

A week from today, we should have a new baby. A girl. We’re inducing next Thursday, so, hopefully, we will be able to spend next weekend as a new, larger, spot on the map, with four points instead of three. This time, I won’t hate it. I know that the malfunctioning fleshbot is only here for a few months and, before I know it, she’ll be banging into baby gates, and then worrying about friends, and then I’m gonna be begging her not to go to college in Europe.

But I also know this – I have no idea who she’s gonna turn me into. The one thing I’m sure of is how hopelessly unsure I am of who I will be three years from now. I sincerely hope I’m able to swim deep. The wishes have already been granted, I don’t dare make any more. From this point on, I’m just gonna have to make myself into what I wish to be.