For the first eight months, everything I observed about parenting made sense. Macklin’s cries for food, a fresh diaper or his mama followed the rules of cause and effect—every problem had a relatively obvious solution. I understood this new infantile roommate of mine. Mostly. For eight wonderful months, that thing called logic was still a thing and my brain didn’t hurt.
But what I witnessed during month nine of my son’s life—about the time he started crawling—had me doubting that two plus two will always equal four. The very laws that govern our universe appeared to break down right before my very tired eyes. Three months later, as my wife and I get ready to celebrate a full year of keeping our firstborn alive, I’m still amazed about the sudden onset of chaos that overthrew my stable stay-at-home dad world.
What Goes Up… Sometimes Stays Up
The first sign that logic would no longer play a meaningful role in my life came at about 7:15 p.m. one evening. Earlier that day, Mack had refused to take his afternoon nap. No big deal, I thought. It wasn’t the first time I lost the daddy vs. Mack nap battle. Based on past performances, I assumed that he’d make up for it by going down for bedtime without a fight, fall asleep quickly and sleep like… well, a baby.
That was the logical evaluation of the situation—an anticipation of future events based on all available data. If Mack missed two hours of sleep, then he should be extra tired later in the evening and welcome sleep with open, flailing baby arms. That was the pattern for the first eight months. And I took it all for granted.
Not only did he fight off bedtime, he maintained a staccato rhythm of sleep that made me want to crawl into his crib and cry right alongside him. Oh, and he woke up early, too. It was a complete breakdown of cause and effect that I simply did not see coming. Starting at month nine, missed naps no longer equaled easy bedtimes. And even more befuddling, great naps are no longer a reliable predictor of contentment. Now, Macklin can sleep peacefully—on a full stomach, mind you—for hours and still wake up fussy. Good luck making sense of that.
Proof of Parallel Universes
I’ve tried applying reason to the things I’ve seen these past few months. It’s just not working. The best I can to do is chalk it up to parallel universes seeping over into our world.
The idea started percolating in my mind when I noticed an especially frustrating phenomenon starting to repeat itself with increasing regularity. Here’s the usual pattern: Macklin is playing contentedly, singing and talking with unrestrained cheer, no signs of distress… but the moment I sit down, he collapses in complete meltdown.
Time of day, location, weather, GI status… none of it matters. The only variable is my relative comfort status. If I’m up doing the dishes or sweeping out the garage, we’re all good. He has yet to interrupt me cleaning. Only when I dare take a break, kick back and actually enjoy watching him play does he take notice.
Once again, I’m at a loss. I know Macklin isn’t purposely ruining my brief moments of rest, as impressive as that level of spite would be at his age. The only explanation I’ve come up with is a poor man’s combination of karma and theoretical physics. I believe some super jerk version of myself living in a nearby parallel universe is making me pay for my misdeeds. He watches through the veil and waits for me to sit down so he can poke through and jab my son in the ribcage just hard enough to make him lose his baby mind.
None of This Makes Sense
I could go on with more examples of delightfully unreasonable behavior, but I know if I get too wordy you’ll stop reading. So I’ll just sum up a few of the most bewildering realities of toddlerhood:
- Not eating lunch (or breakfast) in no way ensures a great, uncontested dinner.
- Filling up a diaper with a massive load does not necessarily result in a relaxed, happy baby.
- Foods enjoyed today have no bearing on whether or not those same foods will be well received tomorrow.
- Having more teeth does not equate to “better” eating (better in any sense of the word).
- Fine motor skills displayed during playtime may be completely absent during mealtime.
- A sleeping baby will sleep through a four-hour party featuring a live cover band, but wake at the slightest scent of mom and dad entering the bedroom.
Entropy Reigns Supreme
What does this breakdown of logic really mean? It means the loss of predictability. And, ultimately, that’s what I’m going to miss the most. (Someone please tell me it’s not gone forever.)
As a guy who thoroughly thinks through each decision—using logic to determine the best course of action—predictability was more of a crutch than I realized. Without it, I feel unsteady, unable to anticipate what’s coming next. To some, that may sound like fun. For me, it’s a growing opportunity, forcing me to let go of my unreasonable need to always be in control and let my son and his whimsical needs plan our day instead. Welcome to fatherhood.