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September 9, 2007

The Notch

Ronan Sleeping

Ronan Sleeping

There’s a maneuver that Ronan makes that I call the notch. When he’s tired, he will flop around and be a little cranky and cry a little, then when he’s fed up with any position he’s tried, he’ll flop his head onto my chest and stick his thumb in his mouth.


Even though I’m always expecting it, it’s a little surprising the force with which he impacts my chest. As if to say, definitively, I’m going to sleep, and this is the spot. Following the crash into my chest, he pushes himself slightly upwards so his head is just under my chin. We sit and rock until he either falls asleep, or lately, bolts upright after five minutes to check and see if the cranes are still hanging from the ceiling.

A good part of our sleep regimen together is assuring him that we haven’t moved those cranes. He’ll also nose-dive into my arm, and that way he can see the cranes and fall asleep at the same time.

Of course, it’s a really nice way to bond with your child as they fall asleep in your arms. He has this sleepy smile – when he’s almost completely out – that he will flash as he falls asleep. Even thought he’s a smiling baby who flirts with everyone he meets, it’s my favorite smile. It’s the smile that he completely trusts me to fall asleep in my arms and enjoys being there.

Now that he’s five months old, we have to transition from him always falling asleep in my arms to sleeping on his own in his crib, since I’m going to grad school now and I’m not always home and with Terry laid off, I’ll be looking for work. So I might have a 2nd or 3rd shift job and can’t be there to be a warm, loving place to fall asleep in.

Terry is much better at the crib placement than I am. (She’s better as a parent at many things than I am!) She only needs five tries, at most, to get him to go to sleep, while I can stand there for ten or fifteen times and he will just look at me and wonder why we’re not in the glider, which is a much warmer, more comfortable place to be.

As a good parent, I know this is the right way to go – he’s old enough to start this, and it will help all our sanity in the long run. But I miss the sleepy smiles, the soft heartbeat, the sweat and drool on my arm.

I like to think he misses it too.

Not to say that he’ll never fall asleep in my arms again. I expect that will happen quite a number of times more. But this is the beginning of the end, and soon he won’t need me to fall asleep, and soon after that he’ll be too big to fall asleep in my arms.

Of course, I get other neat things to enjoy in return – we get to talk to each other, I get to watch him go to school, I get to watch him grow up – but it’s a little sad that now his preferred way of falling asleep will be a inanimate crib instead of flesh-and-blood Dad.

In the end, he won’t remember falling asleep in my arms – I don’t remember falling asleep in my parent’s arms, either – but I finally understand what my mother was talking about when she gets all misty-eyed about watching me fall asleep. I have the same feeling now, and I’ll probably embarrass the hell out of Ronan some time in the future with stories about it.

Stories like this blog….

September 20, 2007

Daddy Cannibalism

Ronan Cowboy

Where’s Ronan? There he is! (Repeat many times.)

Ronan is teething. This isn’t as bad as I was led to believe – but also Ronan is a calmer baby than most, according to grandparents and friends who have had children. I didn’t even know his front bottom teeth had come in until I saw them. We could see a bump in mid-August but he cut his new teeth in his sleep and suddenly they were there. He’s more cranky than usual but he’s still smiley happy baby.

For the past two weeks I’ve been working on a giant presentation for my Communications Law class. I’ve gone back to school for an MFA in Television, and my first really big project – 50% of my grade – involves summarizing and analyzing 20 cases and a 45-minute oral presentation to the whole class. 

My friends and family know that I’m not really a clotheshorse. Even though I’m 38 years old I still prefer wearing sneakers and sweats. I can look like I’m a businessman if I need to, I just prefer not to wear suits. So I like to think of myself as not particularly vain, but everyone is vain about something.

My vanity, apparently, is that I like my nose intact. Ronan, partly because of teething and partly because of his age, is at the point where everything goes into his mouth. Terry asked me to take a break from my paper and hold him for a moment while she got ready to feed him.

Ronan was hungry, apparently, because without any fanfare he dropped forward and latched onto my nose. Any port in a storm, I guess, and he started to suck away.

At first it was cute, but then he clamped down with those new teeth of his.


I have newfound respect for Terry. While Ronan’s bite left me with a small chunk out of my nose, I don’t have to latch him onto my nose for his very survival, but she latches him on several times a day for breastfeeding. So God was helping me to understand what she was going through by having Ronan slice off a sliver of my nose, so I could fully understand that he’s immensely strong, he has little concept of pain in others, and he’s armed to the teeth (pun intended) and willing to use them.

Not that I really needed any empirical data to add to my imagination of what it’s like to have a barely sentient being with razor sharp teeth bite your nipple, but I’m sure there was a good reason why Ronan mistook my nose for a breast, and proceeded to chow down. I’m just  not going to find out in this lifetime.

Ronan thought this was great fun. My nose really hurt (there’s lots of nerve bundles there, apparently)[1] and it wasn’t until later that I realized a small chunk of my nose was missing.

While the presentation for my Comm Law class went really well, no one commented because the small cut on my nose had shrunk by then, and looked like a really large pimple. Which wasn’t great either, but at least it didn’t look like what it was, which was a missing piece of my nose.

The whole thing should heal up in a few days, and there won’t be any mark of the time Ronan took a bite out of his father. I’m not sure Terry will be the same though. Maybe someday, as Ronan is reading this before pulling the whole thing offline, he’ll appreciate the pain and suffering his mother went through to feed him.

I know I owe my Mom some flowers!

[1] Yes, I know there are nerve bundles everywhere!

September 25, 2007


Ronan Close Ups
Terry took these photos. Some people may think they are
objectifying Ronan, but I think they are really cool.

Sadly, it’s not a given that all parents love their children. It’s a learned emotion.

When Terry had a C-section, they took me to the nursery to see Ronan before I saw her in recovery. It was a profound moment for me, mostly because I didn’t feel the way I thought I would feel. I’d just been through a traumatic experience, watching the woman I love in groggy pain for what seemed like endless hours; having a son paled in comparison to my concern for my wife. As I watched this helpless, crying infant, all I could think about was how much I loved Terry and how scared I was for her and that I wanted to see her. It’s not a choice I would like to make again; see your newborn son or go seek information about your wife’s condition. I felt torn, and frankly, I was more than a little angry about having to choose.

So as I videotaped him leading all the other babies in making a lot of noise and driving the nursery staff crazy, I felt nothing remotely like instant love or attachment. In retrospect it was the letting go of a lot of tension, the release of nine months of worry over birth defects, worrying about what kind of birth experience Terry was go to have, and months of waiting and preparations. But at the time it felt like nothing. I was embarrassed and alone, because I didn’t feel like I could go to Terry’s bedside and tell her that after all we’d been through, I didn’t have a choking, heart-stopping mass of love for our child.

Terry had other concerns, mostly pain management after her abdomen was split open. She was much stronger than I would have been, gently asking, “I haven’t gotten any pain meds; could you see when that will happen?” Which almost led to my impression of Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, screaming “Give my wife the shot!” but luckily, I ran into her OB, who killed – killed – the anesthesiology resident dead in front of the nurses and the other residents, so I was more impressed with her impression of House meets Hell’s Kitchen. So with Terry sitting there, not drugged up, it seemed like the wrong time to talk about my lack of parental feelings.

I’m really good at setting myself up for these anti-climaxes. On February 20, 1987, I woke up, fully expecting that I would suddenly feel and act like an adult; I was sorely disappointed to realize that it was just another Friday, and I was still an insecure teen. When I was 19, I lost my virginity, and I thought I would feel and act differently, a confident and virile lover; but then, to my dismay, I found out I was still an insecure teen. When I finally, after too many years, got my bachelor’s degree, I thought I would suddenly be erudite and witty, but then I found out I was an insecure middle-aged man. So by the time I got married, I realized that it wouldn’t change me overnight, but slowly and more deeply. Instead of expecting to have some deep-seated love for Terry, I found it was already there by the time we married. (But I was still kinda insecure.)

But Ronan’s birth brought me back to the belief that I would feel something like love when he was born. I was surprised at how abstract pregnancy can be for the father. The books say that Dad doesn’t feel like it’s really happening because his body isn’t gaining weight or retaining water or  has a fetus pressing on his bladder. I felt more involved than that (at least, I hope I was) but I didn’t feel like Ronan was coming until Terry’s stomach completely flipped over one day. I was more scared than anything; I thought for a moment that he was coming early. The alien moving around in Terry’s belly suddenly seemed real.

Jump forward six months and it’s amazing how much my heart has changed. I enjoy being with Ronan, even cranky, teething Ronan, so much I can’t remember what it was like to not have him around. I think things started to change when he had a fever after his first vaccinations and he was crying. I put him down on the changing table to put a warmer outfit on and he when apeshit and extended his hand and grabbed my shirt. He’d never done that before, and there was a moment there when I had to break his grip to get a new outfit. Suddenly there was this emotional connection – “Don’t leave me,” – that really touched me.

The next time came when I was on the phone talking about some problems at work I’ve been having and I started to cry. I was holding Ronan at the time and when I got off the phone, Ronan was all sorts of concerned. He was making his I’m-in-slight-distress noises and I realized it was because I was crying. It was the first time I had cried in front of him and he was completely attached to my emotional state. When I cried, he cried. He wasn’t sure why I was crying, but he was worried that I was in pain. That was another deep emotional moment for me.

There’s a lot in between those moments and the present day. Moments of spitting up (too many) insanely dirty diapers (less than spitting up, but still many) and of comforting him after waking up. Of choosing to finish scarfing up my lunch before I pick him up and feeling guilty about it. Of staying up late with a sleeping child on my lap, who won’t go to sleep unless he’s holding my shirt in his tiny hand. And it was his charm, his almost constant smiles. His half-sleepy smile as he fell asleep on my lap. His duck-like grunting in disapproval of something he didn’t like.

And suddenly, on a very ordinary day, I had an epiphany. I loved Ronan. I loved Ronan almost as much as I love Terry, but in a different way. It wasn’t immediate and it wasn’t a sudden bolt of lightning but it was there, and it was deep and strong, and it was a powerful bond for me. I didn’t cry heartily but tears came to my eyes.

It’s a very powerful, very emotional realization that you’re a Dad and a husband and now there are two people who depend on you to add presence and illuminate their life. I think about the man I was standing before his incubator in the nursery his first few hours of life and I want to tell him it’s okay that the love wasn’t there. The love that grows over time is the best love of all.

September 29, 2007


Ronan in his crib, not sleeping.

So after many nights of staying up with Ronan, Terry has read the Baby Whisperer book and we have implemented its sleep suggestions. I didn’t read it, but I’m not really happy about this. The essence is that at the first sign of a yawn, you put the baby down to sleep. If they are quiet, you leave them alone. If they make noise, you hold them only as long as it takes to get them calm and collected, nor more than a minute or two. A deep sleep will follow.

The damn thing works. Ronan immediately nods off into a deeper, longer sleep, actually sleeping through the night for up to eight or nine hours sometimes. That’s great.

However, the technique involves standing over his crib watching him go to sleep. That drives me crazy. I hate just standing there, waiting for him to fall asleep. I much prefer to hold him and watch TV. (Of course, TV probably had something to do with his late nights and his short nighttime sleeping.)

So, once again, my wife is absolutely correct about the proper way to attend to our child. So, I spend at least an hour a day or more watching Ronan for signs of sleep standing over his crib. While sometimes I feel like I’m a statue trying to not distract Ronan from his nap, and I’m bored out of my mind, he usually falls asleep within a few minutes.  I don’t know if I hate the fact that Terry was right more than I feel like I’m watching paint dry, but it does work, 90% of the time, so I have to give her props. 

Coupled with the longer sleep, we have Ronan’s new ability to hear everything. I’m beginning to think he’s not a selkie but a half-human, half-bat. (Ronan is Celtic for “little seal.” “Half-human, half-bat” is Jason-speak for “Ronan’s listening to the soft sounds of the keys of my computer as I type this, even though he’s in the other room and the door is closed.)

One night the outside string holding our glass wind chimes broke. The hapless decoration hit the ground with such force; I thought someone was breaking in. Ronan assumed we were under alien attack and started screaming. After I waited for the mythical intruder, I realized it was the wind chimes and we started to comfort him. He just kept screaming, which is unusual for him.

Another time I had three bottles of water in my TV grad class because I was giving a 90-minute oral report. I came home and I had to pee – really badly. If you’ve ever had to pee really badly, you know you just rush in the door and head for the bathroom. I tried to do this as quietly as possible, but has I enjoyed the relief of emptying my bladder, I heard the terror of my son from the other room. I then had the terror of my wife, because I knew I’d be in trouble for waking him up. However, he quickly went back to sleep, so she wasn’t too upset.

There is a problem with being married to a hot, lithe, beautiful woman when you’re a 300 pound guy. Ever since we started dating, she forgets that I can’t follow her certain places – like through the maze of furniture at Bye Bye Baby or other stores. She’s just too thin and beautiful, and I’m just too fat and stocky. I have to take the long way ’round. This has consequences for living in an older brownstone.

Terry can quietly and quickly move through the apartment without making too much noise. I, however, move as if I’m an African Rhino who’s been drinking.[1] Since Ronan developed super-human hearing, I’ve mapped out the entire floor of our living room to locate the support joists so I can walk on them with less noise. It’s actually quite scary how the floorboards bend when I pass by; I don’t know why I never noticed that before.

No matter how hard I try, I make noise when moving. Get up off the futon? “Sssshhhhh!” Terry says. Cross the living room into the kitchen? “Sssshhh!” Terry says. Twiddle my thumbs? “Ssshhhh!” Terry says.[2] I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t even close the bedroom door without making noise.

When we first brought Ronan home from the hospital, I was astounded at what he could sleep through. He could sleep through food preparation, dishes, visitors, grandparents, and television. But now, either because of or in spite of his age and the Baby Whisperer, he wakes up at the drop of the hat.

Want to clean the house? Wait until he’s awake. Washing dishes? Wait until he’s awake. Listening to music? Television? Phone calls? Wait until he’s awake. Terry and I now have hours of conversation at a whisper. We’ve returned our cable boxes and opted for the secret $13.95 cable package that Time-Warner doesn’t even list on their website[3] because we don’t even listen to television with volume any more.

Which is, in a way, kind of spiritual. The quiet is kind of nice. I listen to the sounds of nighttime Brooklyn, the playground across the street, the sirens and helicopters of the ever-present police and fire departments. We’ve started adding silent films[4] to our Netflix account, and we’ve developed such extraordinary hearing that Ronan’s grandparents think we’re faking listening to the TV just to drive them crazy (especially my father.)

Terry points out that, technically,[5] I haven’t read the Baby Whisperer book. However, while I hate standing by his crib watching Ronan drift off to sleep, I’ve a newfound appreciation for silence.

Today, before I wrote this column, Terry was getting ready for her shift at the Park Slope Food Coop. Ronan was tired and I was trying to get him down for a nap. Terry was trying to be quiet, but he was so overtired that everything kept him up. She’d eat breakfast; he’d wake up and want to see what she was doing. She’d get her shoes; he’d wake up and want to see her put them on. She came in to say goodbye and said, “Don’t hold him for too long!”

“Go! I’ve got this!” I said. I was a little annoyed at having to stand over the crib while she kept waking Ronan up. Later, when we were laughing about it, she said, “Now you know how I feel!” Because she doesn’t enjoy standing over his crib either. But the Baby Whisperer works. Unfortunately for Terry she usually has an African Rhino who is dancing around the apartment waiting to pee while she’s trying to get Ronan to go to sleep.

[1] Occasionally, the drinking part is true, but only once a month or so. I never turn completely into an African Rhino, though.

[2] Terry has never told me to be quiet while twiddling my thumbs. This is a joke to underscore that I’m loud and Terry shushes me a lot.

[3] You can get the secret “antenna connect” cable package Brooklyn channel lineup here. The good channels are highlighted.

[4] Anyone else think Charlie Chaplin’s early work is overrated?

[5] And truthfully,

About September 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Freaks & Geeks Parenting in September 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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