Baby as it Relates to Father Time
The baby arrived one year ago. Of Japanese and European descent on his mother’s side, he was predisposed to conquer what came before him and brutally eradicate ways of life he could never understand.
He’s nowhere close to literacy yet, so I want to take advantage of this window to write honestly about what the creature has done to me. It’s possible I will have to delete this eventually, censoring for stability in keeping with my Chinese heritage.
I love my son but am unsure how I feel about being a parent. To be less evasive, I actually hate it. I hate it very much. I feel like it is literally killing me, and you know I’m serious if I use the word literally.
This is a stark reversal from four months ago. If you asked me how I felt about it then and before, my go-to word was awesome.
Parenthood brings out the bipolar in me. I used to mock moodiness in people, the inability to manage discomfort and keep separate things separate.
Now I am pissed off all the time and butt up against some kind of dam holding back a nervous breakdown. I get mad at myself for the mental weakness and spiral further.
What changed in the last four months is not hard to diagnose. When I was working at an office, being a father was all dessert and no vegetables. Snuggle in the morning, make a clean getaway, come home and open the door to big smiles as if I were Chappelle walking out onstage. Hang out for dinner, read a bedtime story, and play the role of fun clown dad on weekends.
I of course always credited my wife and moms everywhere for transforming into superheroes after giving birth, something I didn’t understand until getting the best seat in the house. But you change a few diapers yourself and draw some giggles, and the illusion of being a decent contributing parent is created without the pain. It is indeed a pretty awesome deal.
Now unemployed and sheltering at home, I am living and struggling against the truth I sensed anytime I had to babysit too long. (My wife says it’s not called babysitting when the child is yours, but whatever.)
Spending time with children has a dramatic cliff of diminishing returns. They are so cute and cuddly, and the innocence is heartrending. My baby has a fat face, provoking a visceral urge to press my skin against his and bite him.
But after a few minutes of aggressive canoodling, I am simply ready to move on with my life. It’s why petting zoos charge only a few bucks or carnival tickets. No one is trying to stay there all day.
I do not want to hang out with a baby. I cannot comprehend why anyone would.
The scary part is I have a really easy baby based on my impressions of the average. My boy likes people and dogs, eats well, sleeps well, poops well and pees outside of the diaper so infrequently I can motorboat his abdomen when changing him without fear of R. Kelly-grade retribution.
We have so many sweet moments together. He went through a phase of giving me a Black Panther salute during every diaper change, and this was months before the rest of America awoke. I am proud to be raising a progressive young man.
As soon as he could hold himself up, my baby made it a habit to sling his little arm on my shoulder every time I pick him up as if I were carrying him off the battlefields of ’Nam. He thinks we’re buddies.
He makes four grandparents so incredibly happy, which is probably the area of highest ROI in my book. He understands numerous commands in Mandarin from my parents, including an open-mouth “Jaws” kiss.
The latest trick is beating his own chest while humming gutturally. I taught him this. It's loosely modeled after Matty Mac’s spectacular scene in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” My bros and I would start the ritual to rally as a unified team before crushing beers at Stagecoach.
My baby’s version does not make him look like a highly evolved species, especially when he strikes himself in the face and stops temporarily in bewilderment. Yet this is how he greets and calls for me now, and he’ll break into it spontaneously too.
I could go on with the endearing snapshots because they happen every day. But they are specks in a big picture that makes no sense to me.
The benefits of having kids aren’t on the same scale as the opportunity costs. They’re not even visible on the graph. I’m going to continuously challenge my physical, emotional and financial wellness... for a hug? So an underdeveloped human can figure out how to say “Dada”? (I’m actually trying to get him to address me as “foo-ching”, a super formal way of saying “father” in Chinese that befits the tone I want to set with him.)
Lately I’ve developed a sort of tic in conversations with my brother, blurting out “Don’t have kids” regardless of context. I can’t control the urge.
When he tries to laugh it off, my voice takes on an edge as I try to make him understand. If I told him I was going to remove five hours from his day, every day, he would find that insane.
And with the remaining 19 hours, his energy level would be reduced by 30 percent. Sex life would go down by a number with an exponent. Aging would accelerate to the range of meth addict.
It really is irrational. He would need to have a serious conversation about compensation. The reason why children are priceless is because the cost is infinity.
All I want out of my time is to be productive or enjoy not being productive. Live a simple and in many ways minimalist life.
I can’t do this as a parent. Going to the beach used to be strolling four blocks from the front door with the love of my life, maybe carrying a roadie and book.
Now going to the beach is straight-up camping. We’re talking provisions, equipment, project management software.
And at home, I can’t get things done or have fun. Quarantine was timed disastrously with the baby transitioning into mobile exploratory mode.
He is so high-touch that multi-tasking has become an exercise in deluding myself. I feel like I’m in a straitjacket when babysitting, a form of mental torture.
Just enjoy the moment? I already did, about 90 seconds worth, and now he won’t leave me alone for two hours. I find myself looking at the clock and willing time to go faster, which is such a wasteful way to live unless you’re holding a plank or awake during surgery.
Moreover, when nap or bedtime mercifully arrives, I feel like I’m on deadline to live the life I want. It’s stressful to sense the clock ticking, like Cinderella trying to hurry through everything and soak it in at the same time.
I often stay up late even though the 6 a.m. wakeup call only bumps to 6:11 on good days. I just can’t let go. Fatigue is outweighed by the need to feel like myself again. But skimping on sleep doesn’t help my mood the next day while being exhorted by my tyrannical child to sing the same page of nursery rhymes as he intermittently grabs and twists my nipple without warning.
Battle-worn parents say it gets better, but this is precisely the thought that pushes me toward a meltdown. I don’t want to hang out with a 2-year-old either. Or 5-year-old. Or 10-year-old. Or 15-year-old.
In some ways these options seem to get progressively worse. I just don’t like to be around kids. They don’t have anything to offer me outside of unsustainable bursts of oxytocin.
Kids can be lovely in small doses but are surely destructive over time, essentially drugs anchored in obligation rather than addiction.
I can’t say I regret having one now that he exists, which would create a walking therapy bill if there ever were one. Independent of my baby or any other, I would just say being a parent is not awesome. It has an awesome effect on your life, literally.
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