This post also appeared on www.capecodonline.com/blogs in the opinion section of the Cape Cod Times, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc.
I’m assuming every parent has been there at some point.
It’s 2:30 in the morning and the only time the baby has stopped crying is to eat. Mom and dad are both exhausted, completely sapped of any and all energy. He’s been quiet for nearly two minutes and the two of you are hoping against hope that this will be the time he falls asleep. Even if it’s just for a couple of hours. Hell, even if it’s 45 minutes that’s something. When you’re so tired you can’t even think you’ll take whatever you can get.
Even though it’s dark, neither one of us needs to look at the other to know what’s going on. We rest there, frozen in place, for fear that any kind of movement will disturb him. No one moves, no one even breathes. Even the dogs are quiet as they seem to inherently understand what’s happening. Thirty seconds go by, then a minute…silence. Is it possible? Is he really asleep? This is just about the time you allow yourself to drift off, slipping into that half-dream state that leads to peaceful slumber.
Then you hear the first squeak.
Although you don’t move your body, your mind snaps back to reality and your breath catches in your throat. “Maybe it was nothing,” you think to yourself frantically. You squeeze your wife’s hand under the covers in the hopes of warding off the crying fit on the horizon. But as he starts to wail for the 43rd time that night, you realize you knew in your heart sleep was not in the cards. It’s what Red Sox fans felt every single year from 1919 to 2004. Frankly, it’s demoralizing.
But even though you have to work in a few hours, you get up because your wife is done. She’s had him all day and she’s given him all she has for now. So even though your soft bed and comforter seems to have developed its own gravitational pull downward, you fight it off and struggle out of bed and to your feet. In your bleary-eyed state you stub your toe on the dresser as curse words escape your mouth in a profanity laced tirade. Then you lean down and pick up your son, whose head should start spinning around in a 360-degree circle any minute.
He’s been fed and his diaper is clean, so you have no idea what he needs. That’s the most frustrating part. You keep hoping he’ll somehow summon the power to speak or maybe point at what he needs. So all you can do is put his little head on your bare chest, cup the back of his head and walk with him. At first there’s no positive result. The screaming continues at full throttle.
Out of desperation you start singing to him. Soft tones, just above a whisper. It’s the song you sang to his mother’s swollen belly when he was still safely tucked away in the womb. Sure it’s an Irish drinking song, but all of a sudden you realize it’s doing the trick. He stops crying as you continue singing and patting him softly on the bum. When you finish the song it’s silent, and you gently pull him off your shoulder and see two wide open eyes just staring back at you.
“It’s OK big guy, daddy’s got you,” you whisper.
And just like that, he slowly nods off with his head tilted to one side. Soon his chest is rhythmically rising and falling and he’s completely at peace. Stunned and amazed you carefully put him back in the bassinet and wrap the blankets tightly around his little body. You smile like a conquering hero and even though you really didn’t do much, you feel great. You feel like the king of the world.
You feel like a dad.