Note: After posting this it was brought to my attention that this piece of writing may seem insensitive to those who have had difficult experiences on the road to becoming a parent - or who have desired parenthood but have not been able to fulfil this desire. There are many people in my close circles who have these stories, and if this is your story , I want to acknowledge your grief and loss. My story has its own scars (which I've written about in earlier posts), but it also has enormous privileges that I know are not shared by all. This is intended as a lighthearted and humorous reflection on things that may impact the decision to try and have a child, but it is not intended to make light of the difficult road this can be.
There's no two ways about it.
The rumours are true.
Becoming responsible for a tiny human flips your life upside down,
shakes it like a snow-globe,
waits for you to think the contents are just about to settle...
then shakes it all again.
It changes...pretty much everything.
Well, not quite everything.
Last month I did something I don't often do.
As in, I don't ever do.
I read a poem I had written off my phone. In front of a crowd. And it was how I set the tone for the monthly spoken word night I host.
I have so many mental reasons why I tell myself I don't do this. 'You're a professional! Real performance poets memorise everything! People expect a certain standard from you!'
And I'm not chucking the baby out with the bathwater. There are good reasons I memorise my poems. I want to wear them like skin for the audiences I share with. I want to know I can look into people's eyes while I share what I have carved out with care. I want to be able to breathe the full life I intended into the phrases I crafted.
But, in all of those reasons, what am I saying about others?
What am I role modelling to the student I urged to share,
even if it was just one shakey line from a phone,
even if it was just saying their name,
even if was just sharing their breath on a stage?
I am saying I am past that. That I am bigger than that. Above that. Beyond that.
But, here and now, I am calling myself out.
I am the student, who sometimes needs to urge myself to share,
even if it's just one shakey line from a phone,
even if it's just saying my name,
even if it's just sharing my breath on a stage.
I'm a learner. I'm small. I'm a work in progress.
So, I did this. I took my own advice. I became vulnerable.
I made a confession.
So, it’s been one whole year now, doing this Dad thing.
I guess you could say, in ‘Dad years’, I’m still a baby. But I’m starting to crawl pretty quick and learning lots of new sounds.
The brain of my one-year-old boy is so flexible, malleable, open. He is learning from every surface, every texture, every sound, every moment. And I’m trying to do the same as a parent. To learn from every cry, every babble, every mess, every bath, every twinkle and tear in little eye, every movement of little hand, every ripple of little laughter. I’m trying to be flexible, malleable, open.
This isn’t always easy or natural.
It’s Monday morning. Wind sweeps through the leaves out the window, and the Spring sunshine I basked in yesterday is now a dreary grey.
In my world, Monday is day off. It is rest. This means phone is switched off, emails are off limits, textbooks are closed and my activity throughout the day is slow and thoughtful. I think at a different pace and spend more time reflecting and trying to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Senses feel heightened on this day, as I notice what my food tastes like, marvel in the glory of a carefully chosen craft beer and let background music come to the foreground, hearing all the detail in a song I would often miss.
In my reflective state, I think back over the weekend that has just passed. Like many of my weekends, the one just gone was filled with contrasting contexts that seem almost comical when they’re placed next to each other.
So, I haven't written a blog entry for a couple weeks.
But a little over a year ago I recorded some of my poetry in a little EP called 'Things I Don't Understand'. I've still got a few copies, and I'll post you one if you'd like (click here)!
Anyway, I thought in lieu of written words this week I'd share one of those recorded poems - I wrote this a while ago now (2009) but it seems more relevant than ever as I watch my little boy learning about the world, surely forming a million questions just waiting for the language he can wrap them in.
This poem is for the child in us,
and the 'grown-up' in us,
that continue to have conversations
in the depths of us.
This morning, like most mornings, I was involuntarily awoken at 6am.
This isn't the first involuntary wakeup of the night, but it is the last.
This is the one where the bundle of boy is beaming. Crawling across my head, eating keys from my bedside table, and making noises that signal a general zest for life. There is no going back to sleep from here. It is now officially daytime. I begrudgingly pull my self out of warm blanket nest. I do not share Noah's enthusiasm for 6am.
Before I was a Dad, the children’s book ‘Go the F*#k to sleep’ seemed offensive at best and ludicrous at worst. Hearing Samuel L Jackson read it on YouTube may have added some extra comedic value, but I probably stuck up my nose and thought it was a ridiculous title written by a terrible parent with a heart of stone.
Fast forward to a time when these words have left my own lips feeling more like a desperate prayer than a satirical children’s book, and my perspective has been stretched a little. Even Psalm 137:9 looks different (the one about dashing babies heads on rocks). Ok, so that’s probably one of the most bleak reflections of humanity in all recorded literature, but I’m going to give the dude the benefit of the doubt and assume he had just been woken up for the fourteenth time in half as many hours by a nearby infant. It can make you think (and write) some crazy things.
This is a piece of writing about the S word.
A lot of people in this world don't have great Dads. Some are abusive. Some leave. Some are around but really not around. I don’t know what those things are like. Some people do have great Dads. And I am lucky to be one of them. Your Papa/My Dad, is a good man. A great Dad.
Noah, I want to be your great Dad.
has enormous brown eyes
smooth, plump cheeks,
and a little button chin
that can melt your heart
like butter in the microwave
When you blow raspberries in his neck
his giggles spill over like a waterfall
and your melted-butter-heart explodes with joy
has fresh eyes for the world
a wide, open heart
and I cannot tell him how much I love him
cannot kiss, cuddle, tickle, snuggle-the-poop out of him anywhere near enough
I have an abundance
of that weird, want-to-squeeze-and-use-naughty-words-to-describe-the-intensity-of-my-love kind of love
(You know the one right?)
a blood curdling
wild banshee scream
with sharp, prickly edges
that can endure, repeat and build in intensity
for small windows of forever
When you become a parent,
(at least, in my experience)
the shape of things change
grows, expands, pushes out to the edges of your chest
and presses down deep into your stomach,
becomes smaller and bigger at the same time