Bending with the Breeze

I’m terrible at this.

My baby son is crying and fighting out of my arms and that’s what runs through my mind. I’m that bad dad. The father that works too late, is distracted at home, always on his phone. I’m terrible and my son knows it. He fights out of my arms, flexing his 10-month muscles in an attempt to throw himself on the floor rather than sit peacefully in my rocking arms, asleeply falling.

He’s not wrong. It’s been a long summer and the loss of school days has turned into longer work days, unholden to pick-up times and school activities for the elder kids. I start later, work later, and that means less time with the baby. Is the newness wearing off? Got the little guy to 6 months, might as well coast from here on.

I half believe all this. Maybe a quarter, a tenth. But there’s caterpillar eggs of truth nestled on the underside of a leaf. That small speck that explodes to life, devouring leaves and cocooning to the world. Maybe the baby isn’t rebelling. Ok, he’s not – not yet – but I believe in the flash of insight. A moment holds the world. All contained in a glimpse. I saw what could be and what couldn’t. Not the thrashing baby, but my own doubt and control. Snuggle and love me, dammit! What seed is planted?

My wife walks in with a blanket. I turn on the fan of white noise. I breath, not in some fake, sounds-good-in-writing way, but actually pull breath in, swirl it around, run it past my throat, through lungs, deep into center, then throw the whole thing in reverse. It stills the inner vibration. Try that. There’s this oscillating shiver wired through us. Quiet the buzz. Prairie grass, not oaks, bending with the breeze.

He turns into me. Clutches. Tiny, finely haired head, sweetest smell, turns ear to heart. There this determined final exhale of a wail, like every night, and like that, he’s out. Rocking in the glow of flashing pictures from a silent screen, just him and me and rhythmic squeaks of a compressed cushion holding us up.

I’m terrible at this. Breath in. I’m terrible at. Breath. I’m terrible. Out. I’m. Still. I.

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