The first defectively dampened whisper I heard this morning was, “Mama, he looks like Bane!”
“The evil guy in Batman who wears the scary mask.”
“I was thinking Darth Vader,” she replied.
“Shh!!! You’ll wake Pops!”
“Darth Vader?!”, he stage whispers nearly as loud. “He doesn’t look anything like Darth Vader!”
“He doesn’t? He sounds like him, but you know Star Trek better than me.”
“STAR WARS, MAMA!”
“Shh!!! Please don’t wake Pops!”
“Sorry, Star Wars, Mama. They’re totally different. Old people like Pops, only really know Star Trek.”
“Okay, already. But didn’t Darth Vader have trouble breathing too?”
“Yes, but he’s in an iron lung encased in black body armor. Pops looks more like Bane.”
This is how many of my days begin. Usually, I’m sound asleep, looking heart stoppingly adorable with my mouth half open, drooling on the sheets while my son builds a pillow fort around me like Gulliver. This morning is only a slight variation on the same theme.
Since I am the only one keeping my peace at this time, I surrender it with groggy reticence. “You know I can hear everything you two are saying, right?”
“Sorry, Beloved. We were trying not to wake you.”
“I heard every valiant attempt.”
“Pops, I’m glad you’re awake,” my boy says.
“You’re not supposed to be glad. You’re supposed to be apologetic,” I groan.
“Oh, right. Sorry for waking you, but Mama says you look like Darth Vader, and I think you look like Bane. Who’s right?”
I suppose an explanation is in order here.
Pretty much from the time he was a zygote, I have blamed my exhaustion and energy levels on my adorable 9-year old. I was the Modern Dad who got up for all of the middle of the night feedings, assisting my wife in ways our fathers never pondered. I’m not entirely proud to admit I got a little full of myself about it too. I droned to friends and strangers alike that I could barely stay awake because, “Oh, sorry. I was up all night with the baby.” I confess I got some serious mileage out of that.
People would usually respond along the lines of, “Wow, you’re such a GOOD father! Your wife and son are SO lucky.”
I would smile weakly, yawn and then say something humble like, “Oh, I do what I can. Men can’t birth babies, but we should darn well help with the after birth.” I think my wife found these comments annoying enough that she didn’t let me know right away that “afterbirth” was probably not the proper choice of words.
One of the things I’ve learned about fatherhood is that the previous generation of Dads set the bar so low that it’s pretty easy to be a “spectacular father” these days just by showing up. Being a spectacular mother is a thousand times more difficult, especially if you’d like to do something other than be a full-time Mom. More on that at a later date.
The problem with my “I-was-up-all-night” routine was it was hard to keep believable as the boy aged. By the time he was 3 or so, he could sleep through the night. I couldn’t. I’d wake up at odd hours and never be able to get back to sleep. My whole life I could fall asleep standing up at a rock concert, and now I couldn’t fall back asleep in my bed. That went on for another 5 years or so, until a combination of herbs and mineral supplements seemed to do the trick and I was sleeping through the night.
Or so I thought.
[To be continued...]