Issue 2

The 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 stressful.

            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.



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