A little over a week ago, Sonny turned one-year old. The party was unlike any other in the McGuigan household. It started at noon. Rap music didn’t blare from the stereo. Cake was served on Sesame Street plates–and not ironically. No one got drunk and fell onto our coffee table. In fact, everyone–“just family,” Jaime insisted–was completely sober and mostly age-appropriate.
Before we had the baby, the most heard cliche from other parents was “everything changes.” Newer parents, a dull, frazzled twinkle in their eye, told us how little time they had for anything, how they were lucky if they made it out of the house without a puke stain on their clothing, how their child was basically a drooling kamikaze pilot. Parents of older children spoke with wisdom and encouragement, promised it’ll only get better and better, and then laughed like it was an inside joke we just had to be there for. Grandparents always were the most positive, having both the experience to speak with authority, the distance to forget the mythically awful teen years, and the knowledge that their grandkids eventually go back to their own homes.
For some, the change was good. They buckled down. Started careers. Figured out their priorities in life. Grew up. Others were wary. There was an adjustment period. They didn’t get enough sleep. Rarely cooked meals anymore. Never a moment to relax. And then, of course, there are the outliers, parents like Casey Anthony and whoever fucked-up Tila Tequila. The change certainly didn’t go well there.
Besides the tame party, there has definitely been an adjustment period for me. I’m up earlier everyday. I write less than I ever have. (If blogging for the first time in three months wasn’t an indication.) I’m not exercising as often. I stress about big things like being a good dad, money, The Future, instead of whether or not we have limes in the fridge for the Pacifico I picked up. We also don’t see our friends as often. Our home used to be the party spot, but we don’t entertain as much as we once did, and unfortunately, we can’t bring a one-year-old to a bar or stay out past 7 p.m. without him getting all “28 Days Later” on us. Some of our friends without kids haven’t adjusted either. Sonny is a thumbed reptile to them, crawling and sliming on everything in his path. They forget our baby is not a pet. We can’t leave him at home with the dogs and go out for the night. It would help if we had a babysitter, but so far it seems they’re as ever-present as jackalopes.
Our marriage has changed, too. We’ve become business partners, two shareholders in the corporation that is our child. Our conversations are like meetings. There are agenda items–the daycare schedule, bed and bath time, what’s for dinner. Action items are agreed upon. Some matters are tabled for further discussion. Soon enough, we’ll be talking potty-training, school districts, saving up for his college fund. When the meetings are over, we clock-out, maybe there’s something on TV, a few minutes to catch up with the world online, then our own bedtime. We still communicate, but we talk less. We spend time together, but with so little of it, sometimes she just wants to watch “Top Chef”; sometimes I just want to read. We both miss our freedom, back when our lives weren’t so structured around Sonny, when our living room wasn’t a battlefield of toys ready to explode with the most obnoxious noises, when the only blow-outs we knew were on “Jersey Shore.” We have less time for ourselves and less time for each other. Like most parents, we do the best we can.
But neither of us have regrets. Despite the adjustments we’re forced to make, we both savor those special moments, the smile on Sonny’s face when he bounces up and down in our arms, hearing him shout “uh oh” each time he drops his pacifier, whenever he points at something in wonder and says “dah!” like he expects an explanation. What I didn’t have a little over a year ago was this great sense of meaning, knowing that for one adorably helpless boy I am one of two people he will always depend on, and in turn, I will always have an obligation to him. Plus, in a few years, I’ll have someone to play games with and watch sports. Jaime will have her own tiny sous chef. We both have someone who’ll make us be more thoughtful about our decisions, be more honest with ourselves about our place in the world, and we have each other to share that experience with for years to come.
There will be more change. Next year, Sonny will be able to blow out his own candles and get more cake in his mouth than on himself and the floor. Maybe we’ll have some beer, too, but none for the baby. He’ll have to wait a few more years for that.