Sleepless In Sentimentality

My daughter is sleeping (FINALLY) next to me. The dog is curled up against my leg. I’m waiting for my wife to get home from work in a couple of hours. The house is blissfully quiet. I should be sleeping as well, but I can’t. My stupid brain won’t stop. (I’m sure my wakefulness has nothing at all to do with the Coke Zero I’m sipping on.)’

I’ve just spent the last hour or so trying to get Little Bit to sleep. It was a hard-fought battle. I tried everything. I tried reasoning with her. She’s got half my DNA, surely reason and logic should be innately effective. Surprising no one, my repeated refrain of “Sweetie, it’s late, you’re obviously tired, you should go to sleep now,” was met with the effective counter argument of continuing to scream in my ear.

Next course of action: singing. Those who know me know that my singing does less to soothe the savage beast than it does to send said beast scurrying away from the horrible sound. However, most of the time, Little Bit seems to like it. Fortunately, she doesn’t have much to compare it to other than Raffi and Elmo. Tonight, however, the mellifluous notes of my serenade did nothing to lull my little one to sleep. She did what most others do when I sing. She cried.

I thought of what my wife usually does to get the girl to sleep, She’ll usually nurse her until she’s full and falls asleep in a milk coma. There were two problems with that tonight. One, She already had a full belly from the bottle I had given her a short while ago, and two, I lack the milk-rich mammaries required for such an act.

All I could do was all I could do. I simply held my little girl as she cried and resisted sleep, assuring her that Daddy is here, and Daddy loves her very much, no matter how difficult or stubborn she was being (traits she gets from Mom, I’m sure. Not at all from Daddy). I gently rocked her and whispered my love over her until she finally calmed down enough to let me lay back onto the bed, her head resting on my chest, eyes finally starting to flutter closed. This is my favorite moment of any given day. When she is at peace in her Daddy’s arms, breathing deep and clear, this is when all is right with my world. (I’m sure there’s some spiritual parallel to be extracted here. I’ll trust you to find it. I’m too tired.)

After all the crying, the resistance, the refusal to sleep, the frustration of it all, I find myself surprisingly not stressed or frazzled, but content. And sleepy. But mostly content.

Still, I can’t wait for my wife to get home so the magic boobies can soothe Little Bit when she inevitably wakes up again. She’s so much better at that than I could ever hope to be. Surprising no one.

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The Starting Line

OK, a little background. I’ve been a Midwestern kid all my life. Smaller towns, open spaces, the whole nine yards. My wife (talk about opposites attract) grew up in California. Los Angeles, to be exact. How we came to meet and marry in Kentucky is a story for another time.

After almost 5 years of marriage and one kid (just over a year old), my beloved and I start talking about how she misses her family, some of their health problems, and how she’d like to be able to help them. Fast forward a few months and a few dozen such conversations, and guess where we are today? That’s right, L.A.

Culture shock would be an understatement. This has been, as they say, a difficult transition. As I write this, we’ve been here about three weeks, and I’ve been moved into the role of stay-at-home-dad. This is not a complaint. I love my little girl more than anyone on this planet. We’ve moved in with my in-laws, and I’m learning how to navigate this bustling metropolis of insanity.

I have mixed feelings about being here. The pop-culture-nerd in me is excited. Disney, Universal, Warner Bros. (Helloooooo Nurse!) and the rest. The chance to see places where my favorite movies were made, take nerdy pics with my daughter to embarrass her with when she’s older, go to podcast recordings, live shows and the like; it all makes my little geek heart pound.

Then there’s the Dad in me. I know we’re only here temporarily, but how safe will my little girl be? How can I keep her as safe as possible? It’s good that she’s here to spend time with her cousin (who is ten days older than her), and it’s good that we have some family in town to help take care of her when we need a Mommy and Daddy break.

The bottom line comes down to the question I’ve been asking myself since the day I knew we were having a child: What do I want her normal to be? What default mode can I instill in her to go back to when things get rough as she grows up? For me, this all funnels into a more personal question: How do I want her to see her Daddy living.

The answer to that question leads to a change in perspective for me about being in L.A. Instead of just seeing this as taking care of my wife and her family, I’m choosing to take this time as a new beginning. Since I’m in Hollywood, let’s call it a personal reboot. I want my daughter to see her Dad take control of his life, make better choices, be a better man, better husband, better dad, so that when she gets older, she has that as an example for how to live her life the best way she can.

Me being me, I need a plan, a framework, to make this happen, so I’m focusing in four main arenas, physical, mental, spiritual, and creative. In my mind, the breakdown looks like this:

  • Physical – eat better, get in shape, be able to keep up with my daughter and my wife, and live as long as I can for them both.
  • Mental – I’ve taken a long hiatus from learning new things, so now is the time to learn some new skills, teach this old dog some new tricks.
  • Spiritual – This is a little tougher. I’ve gone through some church politics issues and some betrayal/cover-up from church leadership in the past, and it’s led to some level of mistrust of what I call the church of man. I want my daughter to trust in God, not fallible men. I need to live that in my own life as well, and no longer confuse one for the other. Possibly more on that down the line.
  • Creative – I’ve always been a creative soul; music, theater, prose, and so on. I haven’t been able to indulge that side of me in the last little while, and I miss it terribly. Moreover, I want my little girl to have a creative outlet for herself. So, for her sake and my sanity, I’m looking for an avenue back into that side of me.

As I’ve been contemplating all of this, I’ve decided to document my journey through it all. Why? Maybe there’s another 40-something guy out there who feels stuck, scared, and stagnant, and needs a kick in the tail-feathers to do something about it, and I’m supposed to be the boot. Maybe in documenting this, it’ll motivate me to keep going. Maybe there’s another reason for it that I haven’t found yet. Regardless, here it is. The starting line. I have no idea where this’ll take me, but you’re welcome to come along for the ride of nerdiness and self improvement. Buckle up.