One-Quarter

Most of the time, I listen to NPR while driving around town or going to work. On rare occasions, I might get fed up with the news and listen to our local classical station. It tends to soothe the savage beast, or so I hear.

Other times, I’ll roll the windows down and blare Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, or any number of other bands I have on CD. Yeah, I still listen to CDs. But only in my car. It helps me feel like it’s 1996, and I’m in high school. Back then, I thought I was a pretty cool dude.

Things have changed a little bit.

I was fortunate enough to welcome a healthy baby girl into my life about half a year ago. It’s been great. I’ve loved it, even though I’m getting a little less sleep and my free time has taken a definitive hit. Now, in addition to music and talk radio, I’m driving around with a baby seat in the back seat. We’ve set it up with a mirror so I can keep an eye on her.

A few months ago, I was driving down the highway, doing about 75 mph, and listening to the radio. It was a warm day and the perfect time to listen to a little music. So, “Sympathy for the Devil” started pouring from my factory speakers, and I began rolling the windows down.

I noticed very quickly that rolling all of the windows down meant that the mirror I’d installed in front of our car seat started to vibrate–not violently, but enough that it might loosen and have to be repositioned, which isn’t a one-person job. It’s hard to get the angle right with just one person.

I rolled up a window and checked the rearview mirror again. The baby mirror was still shaking. I rolled up both windows on the passenger side. No change. So, I rolled up the rear window on the driver’s side. That worked. No more shaking, but my first thought was to question whether or not this meant I was one-quarter the dude I used to be. I only had one window rolled down, and I’m a “windows down kind of guy.”

I don’t want to sound diluted, but I think I can still be sort of a dude. I was able to listen to the song even if I had to make sure the volume was way down when I parked. I turned the volume down because little ears were going to be in the back seat, again, very soon.

photo: Dan Sealey

Joy

I experienced wide-eyed wonder in my late teens and early twenties while traveling to other countries, but I think the first time I experienced real joy was when my child was born.

This may seem cliché, but I hope the same for you if you’ve not yet had children. And if you’ve been lucky enough to experience joy before the birth of your child, then I would posit that you are indeed a lucky individual. And probably not nearly as jaded as me.

Having a daughter has been the most significant event in my life. I was warned I was going “to fall madly in love” and, subsequently, accused of being “over the moon.” I can’t stress enough the amount of happiness that becoming a parent has brought me.

Granted, it’s early, and it’s already been difficult, at times. I haven’t always gotten the sleep I needed, and being unable to console a weeping infant has not necessarily been fun, but the joy remains.

This is fairly significant, considering I may or may not have been someone who believed in joy previously. In fact, the idea that someone could experience this level of happiness seemed almost delusional.

I’ve experienced pleasure, and I have had fun engaging in certain activities, but this is very different. I now find contentment in simply knowing that my offspring is near. And what I feel that I need to achieve and what I want has been permanently altered. I still have desires and ambition, but the idea that they can give me what I already have is laughable.

I don’t know if it will always be this way, but the notion that it could be is comforting. Simply put, joy has opened a new world for me. And my life as a parent has only just begun.

Photo: Mohamed Nohassi