Issue 18

Time Traveling


                My son is driving me crazy.

                He is screaming in his crib.  I’ve tried all the standard procedures, like making a bottle, changing his diaper, burping him, checking for a new tooth, making a penguin talk.  Nothing works.  He’s too old for colic, so I can’t even chalk this fit up to that mysterious catch-all.  If a salesman were to knock on my front door and offer me a great deal on insanity, I would take it.

                Perhaps I’m already there.  Before Skylar was born, Rebecca and I agreed that “It is never the baby’s fault.”  Think about it: how can you blame a six-month old for the fact that you’re an hour late to a family dinner?  The age of reason hasn’t exactly kicked in.  Sure, a poopy diaper may be ill-timed or a bottle forgotten so I have to drive back home, but really, that’s my problem as a parent.  It’s my insane belief that diapers should be filled only at times convenient to me or that babies do not go from happy to ballistically hungry in a fraction of a second, especially if I can’t find an open grocery store.

                But the screaming.  This doesn’t happen often, and knowing that is sometimes the only way I think I can survive to the next moment.  My thoughts are shattered before I can have them.  I can feel my perspective warp as the image of my beautiful child morphs into a demon from the deepest level of hell.  He becomes the Thief of Time, the Destroyer of Dreams.  I know I’ve had time to do what I want but…I cover my ears to block out his crying.  I feel like I haven’t had a moment to myself in months.

                What does he want from me?  This is a dangerous question to ask, because you never stop asking it, even after your children are thirty.  I know because my parents are still asking it.  I can hear the echo of my father’s favorite curse: “I hope you have children just like you.”  He must had days like this.  I discover I have a new bond with my father.

                I look deep into Rebecca’s eyes.  We hold a brief but silent negotiation.  It’s based on who is closer to going over the edge.  That person gets to go outside or stare mindlessly into the fish tank.  The other, only slightly more sane person gets to try the impossible again.  Ours eyes flash and the evaluation is over: tonight it’s my turn to be hero.

                I stand outside the door to his room, putting my hand on the wood to feel the vibrations from his voice. Where is the hidden strength that is supposed to suddenly come with being a parent?  Where is the book that explains it all?  There is no answer to my questions.  I am alone.

                I turn my ears off as I open the door, a talent I am not sure how to explain.  Inside, I can see Skylar working himself into a feverish pitch.  Amazingly, he is able to actually increase the intensity of his screams.  The dog begins to howl.  As I pick Skylar up, I have a horrible thought:

                I don’t want to be around my son.

                Being a parent was supposed to glorious, and I’ve never felt this low in my life before.  I lift Skylar carefully, then hold him against my chest.  As I sit in the rocking chair, stroking his hair, I wonder what it’s going to be like when he’s five, sixteen, thirty.  I’ve heard that the horrors of having a teenager are even worse than when they are toddlers.  I imagine that so very far away day. That’s when he’ll hurt me most, I know, that period of time when he doesn’t want to be around me.  What an irony, that when I want to hold him most, I won’t be able to, and now when I don’t want to hold him is when he needs me most.

                It makes me want to close my eyes and build a time machine around myself, changing places with that self of the future.  I hug Skylar intensely, and then I send that hug to him in that distant time so many years away.

                For a moment I wonder what will happen.

                I can suddenly feel the silence.  Skylar has calmed.  The hug continues, it will never stop, and I realize that the hug is still in my arms, that it never left.  Traveling through time was nothing like I thought it would be.  But I have no care for the details of how I will get back.

                I am exactly when I need to be.


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