While I was busy trying to immortalize the majesty of Steampipe Alley, I made another video discovery: a bunch of digital camera movies I’d totally forgotten about. All the clips were less than a minute, and came from when my daughter was only a few months old. Grasping at her toes. Shoving toys into her mouth. Flailing wildly in a vain attempt to control her limbs. All of the small triumphs of a tiny life.
Watching these moments, they felt like yesterday to me, and yet, they feel like forever ago. I felt almost crushed by the weight of time, by how much she’s grown since then, and by the realization of how quickly she’ll grow up from how big she is already.
I was also somewhat shamed to realize that I rarely talk about her on this site. And when I do, it’s usually to bitch about how hard parenting is, or to rail against some rude jerk I encountered while out in the world with her.
That’s because I try to be funny on this here site. Whether or not I succeed is another story, but that’s my intent. The sad fact is, frustration and anger are funny, while happiness isn’t. That’s why most comedians are such well-adjusted people.
Tolstoy famously said all happy families are alike, while every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. I don’t think that’s entirely true. But I do think every person’s notion of happiness is so deep and profound that it becomes un-profound to the larger world. Within the universe of you, it means everything, but to everyone else, it means nothing.
That may be why I don’t write about my daughter on this site very often. Because she makes me happy in a way that defies words. Happy doesn’t do it justice. It’s the closest word there is, and it’s still light years away from what I feel. Trying to describe how she makes me feel would be like trying to describe my own brain: I’ve never seen it, and I never will see it. I just know it’s there and it makes me alive.
She makes me feel happy in a way I haven’t felt when I was a child, that feeling of pure, unadulterated joy unbroken by any worries or fears. It’s a rare feeling, especially for me. I’ve never been able to turn off my What Now alarm for too long, even when I was a kid. It is extremely difficult for me to forget about Life and have fun. But being goofy with my daughter brings me to someplace childlike and wonderful, and it happens so easily I can hardly believe it.
It kills me to drop her off at day care each morning, kiss her goodbye, and spend the whole day without her. A minute doesn’t go by that I don’t think about her, about walking in the front door and seeing her and being silly with her. Sometimes I think of myself as Homer in that one flashback Simpsons episode, when he arranges pictures of Maggie around his de-motivational plaque so that DON’T FORGET: YOU’RE HERE FOREVER reads DO IT FOR HER.
The sad fact of my life/schedule is that I see her at her worst parts of the day: early in the morning, when she fights to stay asleep (like Daddy, she is not a morning person), and at night, when she can be just as cranky. Not to mention all the stupid Life Things I have to do that get in the way of playing with her. I live for the weekends, when I get to spend hours with her and enjoy her in all her wide-eyed, curious, and crazed glory.
I could recount a million little things she’s said and done that warmed my soul, but they wouldn’t mean anything to you. However, I would like to share one little story with you, with a preface:
One of the hardest things to learn as a new parent is that your kid won’t love you the way you love them. They can’t. Babies are Pure Id. They are nothing but Need and Want. They will get mad at you and yell at you and hit you when you dare to deny them their every whim, or don’t yield to it fast enough for their fancy. You can’t take it personally. All you can do is love them and hope they learn to love by osmosis.
So I’ve come to expect low returns on my investment of affection. But one day a few months ago, I was playing with my daughter on our bed. Jumping around, hiding under the covers, just being silly. All of a sudden, in the middle of all of the goofiness, she stopped and fixed me with this quizzical, serious look.
“I like you, Daddy!” she said, as if she had just realized or decided this. Up to that moment, I’d never heard her say “I like [anything]”. I almost burst into tears. It meant so much more to me than hearing her repeat I love you, because it was so real and genuine. It wasn’t rote, something I forced on her through repetition. It was a conclusion she’d come to, one she felt she must declare. “I like you, too!” I said, and gave her a huge hug.
Today, she’s made me happy for three full years. It feels like yesterday, and it feels like forever, in the best way.