Milestones

We went to the store. All three of us. It was a big deal.

We had his two month vaccination appointment and, like we have done after doctor appointments before, we went to the store to get Mom and Dad a cookie to make it better. But rather than out usual routine of one of us staying in the car, we decided to carrier-up and see how he did in the real world. As soon as we walked in he got fussy, so Mom turned around to head back to the car; but then, as she got to the doors, he had fallen asleep. So she joined me again, and we did some shopping, baby in tow. We felt like actual parents. 

Since then, we have taken him out to breakfast twice, and made a Target run. He seems to be soothed by the din of crowds, so much so that Mom (sound designer rock star) pondered making a crowd sounds track to put him to sleep. 

Naturally I'm now thinking of unrealistic things like taking him to see the next Pixar film, or going to a concert at Edgefield. With headphones, of course. I'm not a monster. But I'll have to live with going to the store, and having Mom and Mister Man come meet me for lunch now that I'm back at work. Whenever he gets old enough for screen time, I'll introduce him to Pixar slowly, probably starting with WALL-E, then moving on to UP, and Toy Story (just the first one, Zurg might be too scary to introduce Toy Story 2). From there, who knows?

But until then, we'll keep getting him acclimated to being social. Mom has a coffee meeting with a theatre colleague soon, and of course when they do come see me at work, I'll just have to step aside while he's being adored.

So, baby steps. We're not quite at having him in a play pen in a theatre while we tech a show all weekend, but I suspect that's coming sooner than we realize. 

Joan Benoit Samuelson once said "I look at victory as milestones on a very long highway". Considering the highway we're on is years long, I'll take any victory I can. 

Eight weeks

Eight weeks old. Eight weeks that I've been on paternity leave. It both went by really fast, and was also some of the longest days I have ever lived.

"That's so great that you got that much paternity leave." This is a common statement that I have heard multiple times. Let me clarify: I did not get any paternity leave, I took eight weeks off. I was very fortunate that I had the PTO built up to take as much time off as I did, but there's a misconception that I was given paid time off. Maybe one day, parental leave will be the rule and not the exception, but even working for the company that I do, there is no paid paternity leave.

Having gone through this experience, and taking the time that I did, I can't conceive how people do it with any less. I just now feel like I've got a pretty decent handle on this dad thing; if I had to do this, and go back to work after a week (or, in some stories I've heard: three days), I would be incredibly tired, pretty angry, and would feel super guilty for leaving my wife with the child all day, every weekday. 

And let's just pause for a moment and give a hearty "Damn!" to all the moms that have to wrangle all the pieces and parts while their partner is back at work. Insanity. And to all the double-dad families, not having access to free, perpetual milk is an added challenge that I also salute.

So, the boy is now 8 weeks old, and has had his first round of immunizations: time to start getting him out into the world. First stop was breakfast with friends (a rousing success), and then, on his two-month birthday, mom and kiddo will be coming to see me at work, so that we can go to lunch. And so he can be fawned over by the folks in the office. But also have lunch.

I go back to work in two days. I'm sure it will be hard, but mom will have it well in hand. And then it will be the weekend, and the next chapter of our new life will have already begun. A routine will (eventually) be established, and we'll hopefully look back on these last eight weeks and say "Damn", both because it's going by so fast, but also because we survived.

The Force is Strong in my Family

I know, I know. This blog is supposed to be about becoming a dad, and raising a child, but bear with me for this tangent.

I saw Star Wars, The Force Awakens. I assumed I'd be relegated to seeing it on BluRay once the kiddo was old enough for me to feel good about walking away for 2+ hours. But, with grandparent support, and my better half knowing that I'd owe her one, I was able to slip out and take in an actual movie in an actual theatre. And there was popcorn and a soda. Crazy, right?

As I watched the film, I was taken by how much respect it had for the Original Trilogy, while shying away from the prequels (thank you JJ). I was also super excited to know that I will one day get to introduce my son to this world, and movies in general. It's "screen time" that I'm okay with letting him have, once he's old enough to grasp the basics. I want to watch him watch all of the Pixar cannon (specifically Toy Story and WALL-E). I am so curious to see A) if he is as taken by films as I am, and B) if so, what stories and genres he's draw to. 

As a lighting designer, some of my biggest inspirations come from films, and specifically Cinematography. If I could emulate the looks of Roger Deakins in my theatrical design, I would be a happy camper.  But my love of Cinematography evolved late in the game, so to speak. I was never in to theatre as a child, and movies, while awesome and addictive, weren't ever in my mind as a career.

So, how does this apply to the little munchkin? While I don't want to influence his interests, I want to make sure that he's exposed to the artistic side of life as much as possible. He'll get a good amount of socialization in our theatre circles, but as we all know, as he gets older, whatever the parents are in to is the exact opposite of what he'll like. I see it as a balance between showing him all the fun of the arts, while pretending that I don't care if he's interested. I haven't been on stage in 15 years, so my acting chops are rusty. We'll see how it goes.

But Star Wars is a good metaphor for raising a child. In Episode 4, Luke is drawn to the rebellion, while stuck in a mundane existence. He knows there's more to life, but doesn't have a support system to back him up; stupid Uncle Owen making him put off his Academy application until after this year's harvest. And once Luke is free of the responsibility of the farm life, he's thrust into a new world of possibilities, and new opportunities. 

Sure, Luke's dad ends up being the bad guy, but I think that's what age 11 is for. I fully expect he'll want to strike me down and become more powerful, but with enough exposure to film and theatre, maybe he'll use a foam sword, or a rubber knife. Maybe he'll hate me a little less because of his experiences. Maybe.

So, for now, I'll just hope that I can, in his eyes, be a little more Yoda and a little less Jar-Jar Binks. Meesa would like that.

Shhh, the baby's sleeping (or is he?)

Here's a quick method for seeing how loud or quiet your house is: 

  1. Have an infant that is almost asleep.
  2. Walk the baby around your house at 3am.
  3. Open a door, or shift positions on the floor.

If your house is anything like mine, at 3am, with the quiet outside, and the quiet inside, the floor can squeak in places, and in ways, you never thought possible. A door creaking open is the loudest sound you've ever heard, and if you forget to soft-close the door afterward, the latch against the strike plate is like a gunshot. And the kiddo is having none of it. 

I offer no solutions for these maladies (other than the Christmas miracle of WD-40), only a knowing nod in your general direction that I too know what you're up against. 

We're currently taking shifts at night, since the boy doesn't tend to favor the co-sleeper we have next to the bed. During my shifts, if I'm not able to get him to sleep a tad in his crib, I have indulged in non-age-appropriate viewings like Jessica Jones and Chris Rock's Top Five. 

We have also (we believe) entered into the Purple Crying Zone. I had hoped Santa would skip our house this year with this particular gift, but I think we had a sneak peek last night when he wouldn't be soothed, regardless of diaper and food status. For those unfamiliar, Purple Crying is the Pixar-esque way of saying crying that won't stop. Crying that has no discernible cause. Crying that basically says "screw you and your feeble attempts to fix it". Cryin' that would make Aerosmith proud.

I'm hoping we're wrong, and the bout we had was just a precursor to the giant poop that followed three hours later (which, if you recall, we love). 

Happy holidays from all of us here; the kiddo wishes you safe travels, good food and drink, and a relaxing time to be had by all.

I wish you no crying, and a good poop. 

One month

One month. The boy has been here for one month. It has both seemed to go by very fast, and so very not fast. 

One of the best moments has been to see first hand how he has no idea he has arms, hands, legs...and that once he grabbed his own hair, causing him to scream in pain, and thus grab harder. Wash, rinse, repeat for a solid minute until I could pry his fingers open to release his crazy grip. The kid is really strong already, which is both gratifying and scary, because the ever-present fear that I might drop him gets exaggerated when he squirms while I'm holding him. It scares. The. Crap. Out of me sometimes.

Let's talk about poop. I never knew (though have heard tales) that poop could be such a sigh of relief. Sure, for adults it absolutely can, but we generally don't text each other saying "We have poop!". That text was one of the best texts I have ever received, because we were going on well over 24 hours since the last sighting. As a proud owner of a buttocks, I can tell you that 24 hours is a lifetime for me. I hear rumor that's not the case for everyone, but when it's what you know, empathy panic can set in pretty quickly.

We've taken to calling him the Ravenous Chipmunk, because when he's ready for food, and rooting around for the Holy Nipple, his actions can best be described as a ravenous chipmunk: anxious snorting and bobbing of the head to find sustenance. Couple this with his internal clock (which is apparently on New Zealand time), and you have for some amused, but worn out, parents. 

I have to say, now one month in: I have no idea how our species has survived. This is the hardest thing I have done. We have had tremendous help from both sets of grandparents, and yet I have experienced exhaustion that bordered on delirium, and fatigue that manifests itself as flu symptoms. And this is just my perspective from the partner side of things. How single mothers do this is beyond my comprehension. 

Okay, enough for tonight. The Chipmunk is showing signs of being sleepy. 

Baby. Infant. Child. Newborn.

We just had our first child and, rather than tell you all about how wonderful it is, or how much work it is, I want to tell you what I wold have told myself all those many months ago. 

Imagine you get up to go to work; some semi-reasonable time like 7am. You do your usual routine of showering, teeth brushing, and getting dressed, and then after a leisurely drive, you get to work. 

You walk in to the office, and your boss lets you know that today might be a little different than you're used to, but not to worry, it will all be fine. Your boss is not typically a liar, just maybe a tad forgetful about when they came in to work on this type of day back when they first started.

You get to your desk, settle in, and realize that everyone is being extra nice to you; all the staff are super supportive, but something is different. Kind of like being on the receiving end of a yet-to-happen surprise birthday party. 

Your email dings, and you click over to read the subject: It's time!  You open the email and see that it is, in fact, time; time to pack up your desk, move to another section of the building, and start your new job. 

Wait. What? "I thought I was just going to do my same job, just with a few added tasks." Yeah, right. Silly mortal. Did you not read the contract when you signed on to this opportunity? It stated the following:

You will be assigned this new job, you will do it regardless of how you feel, and you will be on the clock 24/7. You may occasionally get breaks, but if you need to sleep, there's a nice bench by the vending machines. Just don't stay there for more than 20 minutes; your presence at the jobsite is required. 

Yes, that's right: you are never leaving the office again. Well, at least not until you can show management that you are capable of taking on non-essential tasks in addition to your workload. "But I've done Army bootcamp; surely that counts for something?" you reply, to which you receive a quick answer: "Bootcamp may have been hard, but you actually got to eat and sleep on a regular clock. This is harder. Buck up champ, you'll be great."

And so you get dressed in your new uniform, pack up your desk, put it on a cart, and head to the over-bright (and slightly cold) room for orientation. Orientation takes longer for different people, but since this was a planned move, you are whisked in to begin training. You're office mate for the next all-the-times is there too, already wearing a similar uniform. The two of you countdown to the beginning of the day's shift, and then the work bell rings.

Only it sounds like a baby crying.