Finally Remembering

Next week Felix turns two months. A guy once told me it wasn’t until then that he really started enjoying fatherhood. He claimed his daughter was just an eating, shitting, sleeping lump for the first eight weeks of her life.

Maybe this guy’s baby didn’t have much of a personality, or maybe he wasn’t looking closely enough, but I’ve found a lot to keep me engaged. Felix has a range of states—when fussing, for example, he has a variety of cries in his arsenal, signaling different anxiety levels and needs. And we interact on many levels. They might be minute interactions at this point, and sometimes they’re short lived, but he’s far from a bump.

One of my favorite times to spend with Felix is when he’s quietly concentrating and taking things in. He’s best able to sit independently in this condition, watching us from his swing chair as we cook dinner, or staring at the dappled sun on the floor as we eat breakfast, often pulling on his binkie with slow, unhurried sucks. The thing is, it can be hard to put him down and leave him alone when he’s like this. Holding him as he encounters something new—seeing light play on tree leaves, smelling basil, hearing the echoes of a tap dancer practicing in the tunnel that leads into the park—is a hell of a recharge.

Quiet Looking

Quiet Looking

A couple years ago I started a blog called Remember to Look. The title riffed off a line in a Billy Collins poem (more on that poem some other time). It was meant to be about writing, reading, and the fundamental pleasures of the world, though it never found a rhythm and is now defunct. At that point in my life—having just walked away from a teaching career to get my MFA—I couldn’t find much to say about the joys of slowing down, because I was too concerned with moving ahead as quickly as possible. These days, such moments happen frequently. Felix, with his beautiful blue wide-eyed expressions of amazement, reminds me to appreciate the pleasure of the sensual world. It’s been like that since day one, when I saw how strongly the little guy clung to life in the NICU.

Before you start thinking this baby’s reached some higher level of Buddah-being, let me also tell you how fun it is when Felix is more active. During these stretches, he breathes fast and makes all kinds of funny, animalistic noises as he flails his hands toward whatever’s caught his attention. I’ve overheard lengthy conversations between him and the orange fish that hangs alongside his swing. I wish I could see what it is he sees in that molded bit of plastic. It’s like his best friend.

Playing with him in this state is the most fun. For a few minutes he might actually become excited by a book, if the colors are bold and the shapes simple, or if there’s a mirror involved. (The little narcissist already loves looking at himself.) I hold him on my legs and drum stupid beats on his belly, using his head for cymbals and honking his nose, or scratch out routines as if his gut’s a turntable. I hold him up and he gets the biggest kick out of looking me in the eye as I swoop in for a kiss. This always gets a big reaction—more recently a smile, though before that development he responded with expressions and noises.

So while he spends a lot of time feeding, and the diaper changing routine stinks (yuk yuk), and on many days I wish he would sleep more, this kid’s a lot more interesting than a living machine. It’s a joy to be with him, when he’s well rested and in a good mood. And already he’s had an impact on me. Maybe I’m just more open at this point of my life to learning from a baby, but I feel like now, finally, I’m remembering to look and appreciate the fundamentals.

Felixs Favorite Book

Felix's Favorite Book

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