Untaught Leading the Taught
My son Skylar has just woken. It is Saturday morning, around eight.
He fidgets in my lap, requiring at least one of my hands and often two to
keep his head from colliding with the desk. I haven't yet solved how
to type while holding him, so I revert to the classic hunt and peck style
using my nose. That means you'll probably have to read this column a
bit slower than you normally do.
Rebecca and I have had to make many such life-changing adjustments in our
life. She designed a wooden card holder (available for $9.95 +
S&H) so we could play Canasta while she held Skylar. I've swept
my desk clean to make room for his bouncy chair while I write. Don't
worry: I put all of those important piles of paper in a box which now sits
in the middle of the floor so they're just as accessible. Skylar
didn't like sitting on floor, and I didn't like him staring at the side of
my head; it made it hard for me to concentrate. Now I can reach over
and squeeze his toes while he's sleeping, just to say hi. He makes a
much better screen saver than even flying toasters.
Watching Skylar learn has shown me just how much I have yet to learn, or
better yet, unlearn. Once when I was holding him I had to walk
through a dark corridor. Skylar took it in stride as the shadows
blended into complete black. I found the edges of fear begin to claw
at me, aching with animal intensity to figure out how to consume my
consciousness. At that moment I realized that fear of the dark is a
learned behavior. Skylar has no fear, in many cases, except for the
first time we did a zero-gravity drop, but now he really digs them and
squeals for more, more, more. What is it about the dark that I am
afraid of? That some guy with a twelve-inch knife is hiding behind
the door waiting for me? Of course, he's been waiting there for over
four hours and given up multiple opportunities to nail me in the kitchen
when the circumstances were much more in his favor. No, this guy
wants to get me only after all the lights are out. Maybe he's really
a vampire and his theme music sounds better in the dark. I laugh to
myself as my adrenaline begins to pump in anticipation of taking action.
I prepare for different scenarios, depending on how fast the murderer is,
and have several escape options ready. And then I stop laughing
because it might really be true.
It's all those horror movies I watched as a kid. Okay, that I
watched as an adult because I wasn't allowed to watch that kind of movie
as a kid. My father had an aversion to waking up at 2am to explain
to me that there weren't really fifteen foot spiders from outer space
hiding under my twin bed. No, it must have been something mainstream
like the nightly news. I can't recall many specific incidences, but
I have an overall recollection of some of the crap I poured into my head
the violent thoughts and images, the sounds and screams, the what-ifs
about horror that for most of us are never real. Rebecca still
gets the willies whenever she has to walk down a long dark corridor like
they had in Rosemary's Baby. I don't like being paralyzed whenever I
face the unknown, and I don't want to teach Skylar to be afraid of shadows
that have no substance. Lately I've been working on turning that
learned fear of the dark around, to either eliminate it altogether or
learn to relish the feelings of terror it evokes as delicious rather than
One of the strangest feelings I've had with Skylar so far is nostalgia.
A good friend just had her daughter about two weeks ago, which makes
Skylar four months older than she is. When I hold her baby in my
arms I have to remember to support her head. Oh, and listen to her
ask her husband if he remembered to wipe the umbilical cord with rubbing
alcohol. Remember when we did that with Skylar before his fell off?
Now they're arguing about whether it's the right time to introduce the
binky. Brings back memories.
My goodness. Nostalgia, already, at four months. How soon will
these memories pack my mind so full that I can't remember life before
Skylar's blessed arrival without a great deal of effort?
I may, deliciously, already be there.