So naturally, just a few hours after I mocked his baffling baby behaviors (see Part 1), Declan proved why being a parent is so amazing and so unlike anything else. After darkness comes light. Rainbows after rain. Insert your favorite hard-times-eventually-yield-good-times cliché here.
It started with the food trucks, which he greeted with initial skepticism, or more likely, indifference save for the hunger that caused his chubby chin to crinkle, his wide eyes to well with wetness, and his mouth to, you know, do what baby mouths do: namely, make noise. To mitigate this, we introduced a new weapon in the arsenal of infant calming: the bottle. As our friends and fellow new parents scarfed down tasty food truck offerings whilst attending to babies of various age and temperament, we decided now was the best time to give him a nipple of the plastic variety. And I had the honors. At first, he just toyed with it, anticipating–I think–that this was just some new version of the pacifier…fine, occasionally, to suck on, but devoid of the life-giving nourishment of his one true love, the boob. And then, he opened wide, took the whole thing in his mouth, and sweet mother of God, milk was magically delivered to his mouth at what appeared to be the speed of white water rapids. So much for the promises of a “slow-flow” nipple. Anyway, it was remarkably rewarding as a dad to be able to meet this basic need of Deck’s after five weeks serving as Colleen’s pit crew, chiming in probably more often than necessary, “Think he needs a diaper change yet?” Looking into Declan’s eyes as I fed him, they seemed bigger than usual, almost in awe. I imagined him thinking, “I don’t know who you are or why you keep hanging around. But you just became more valuable to me.”
And that was just the warm up. After we got home, Declan fed with Colleen for a bit, and then we talked about putting him in his sleep sack and trying to send him off to bed. But as I started the process, I realized he wasn’t having it. Not the least bit sleepy. So I laid him down on the bed and just started talking to him, making funny faces, showing him objects in the room, whatever struck me. 45 minutes later, we were still there. No crying. Just full-blown curiosity, mixed with his version of jiu jitsu (legs and arms spazzing out) and a few smiles for good measure. Sometimes, we’d almost be having a conversation. He would coo and I would mimic. I would talk in that weird, high-pitched voice that adults use to talk to babies and he would mimic. Coolest damn thing. And then, I put my face inches away from his and looked into his eyes and he looked right back into mine– not breathing, not blinking, not judging– and, I thought…wow, after 31 years of life, now I know what eyes are really for.