For the past five months, while driving my son home each day, he has always dozed off to the sounds of Weezer or The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I have depended on him getting that nap every day. But over the last week, that has changed.
I think it’s because of a number of things. It’s now dark when I pick him up from KinderCare, so I imagine it makes it more difficult for him to fall asleep. Plus he’s transitioning into the toddler class now. He doesn’t want to drink formula anymore, just solid foods and water.
All these changes at once are surely effecting his psyche.
So now, on the drive home each day, he cries and screams as loud as he can. There is only one remedy.
In an act which is the equivalent to me standing on the tips of my toes, I reach back to his rear-facing car seat and use my pointer and middle fingers to lightly tap the top of his head and forehead. He instantly stops wailing; becoming silent.
After my entire arm begins falling asleep, I take my hand away to let the blood start flowing again. It typically takes about 8 seconds for him to realize what has happened and then he’s back to screaming.
I can’t help but laugh. I mean, it’s pretty hilarious that my son cries as hard as he can until I start tapping the top of his head again. It’s funny how something that stupid can solve the problem; and that it’s the only way to solve the problem.
Yes, it’s ridiculous. But it’s also pretty humbling.
Though I continually am aware of how unworthy and unqualified I am to give life to another human being and soul, and to raise him on top of that, it’s little things like this that begin to convince me otherwise.
Maybe in some capacity I actually am chosen to do this job. Even if I don’t believe in myself as a dad, God evidently does.
After all, just the presence of the tips of two of my fingers dancing along to the drum beat of whatever rock song is playing through the stereo speakers is all he needs.
Literally, that’s all he needs. Every once in a while he’ll reach up and grab onto my pinky, as to hold my hand, but only for a few seconds. Then he lets go.
I know him. That’s just our shared style of father and son bonding. If he’s going to hold someone’s hand, it’s going to be Mommy’s.
Apparently, I am helping him cope with being afraid of the dark by him feeling my constant movement, as to scare the ghosts and monsters away.
After listening to nothing but the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ newest album in the car for the past two weeks straight, I switched to the mellow, non-consumerism theology of Jack Johnson. But my son didn’t like that very much.
You might think that I am 43 and my son is 13. Actually, I’m only 30 and he’s just eleven months old.
Something funny about my son is that he has never been able to chill out and go to sleep when confronted with appropriate lullabies and soft music. As a newborn, it took Taylor Swift’s upbeat and rockin’ album, Speak Now, to soothe him into Slumberland.
But a couple of weeks ago, I found the Red Hot Chili Peppers newest album, I’m With You, at Best Buy for 10 bucks. Since then, my son Jack has to have it playing on the stereo speakers.
If I try to trick him and switch to something like Jason Mraz, he wakes up and starts crying. So Red Hot Chili Peppers it is; for a total of 80 minutes a day as I chauffeur him to and from KinderCare; I work just down the block from his daycare.
Jack is such a laid-back little boy. But he makes up for it in his refusal to easily fall asleep when he needs to. It’s a struggle- always has been.
In fact, I depend on those daily naps he gets during the car ride. So if it takes a funk rock or punk rock, or even ’80′s rock to get the job done, I’m all for it.
I guess there’s just something about steady bass lines and up-tempo drum beats that help him relax enough to forget about the fact he would rather be exploring the world; especially now that he can toddle. (He turns a year old a week from today and will officially become a toddler.)
So if you’re looking to catch a ride with Jack and I, you better believe we’ll be jammin’ to the beat of “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.”
For nearly a month now, Jack has been going to day care as my wife and I have returned to our jobs here in Nashville. I work only a block away from where he is all day, so I’m the one to chauffeur him an hour round trip five days a week.
Those “Baby on Board” suction cup signs on cars always crack me up. I’m only pretty sure that a careless driver isn’t going to have the gumption to read one of those signs, then stop and think, “Oh! That car has a baby inside. Man, I need to slow down and focus.” Or maybe there’s some secret society of people playing bumper cars with their cars out on the highway and they only break for vehicles with the “Baby on Board” signs.
Needless to say, there is no little plastic yellow sign stuck on a window of my Honda Element, but I do indeed drive a vehicle containing precious cargo. With my baby on board, I feel like his bodyguard. The Pope has the Popemobile; Jack has his Toaster on Wheels, his Big Green Lunch Box, his Wind-Up Toy Car- your choice.
I know there are cities with crazier drivers in America, but for those 60 minutes a day I drive him around in Nashville, I have to assume that every other person is a maniac who is drinking their fifth 5-Hour Energy drink and Tweeting on their phone while I drive alongside them. I have to assume that at any given moment, a startled deer will jump out in front of the car. I have to assume that Wile E. Coyote poured a bucket of Acme grease on the road in front of me in attempt to catch the Roadrunner.
In the meantime, Jack is asleep half the time as I jam out to any given Weezer album. As for the time he’s awake, I assume he’s like me: in deep thoughts about A) the unfortunate impossibilities of time travel, B) whether or not God likes the music of Dave Matthews Band; if so, what is His favorite song, and C) who would win in a fight- A.C. Slater from Saved By the Bell or Uncle Jesse from Full House?
For now, Jack’s vocabulary doesn’t extend past “dada,” “mehm-mehm-mehm-mehm,” and “ba-ba-ba-ba.”. But eventually, he and I will be able to have some normal conversations during the morning and afternoon car rides. I can ask him what he learned in pre-school that day.
Until then, we’re both just sort of in our shared solitude, looking in opposite directions. Every so often though, I turn around real quick to make sure he hasn’t somehow escaped his car seat and wandered off. Then I see those happy little feet and know that my baby is still on board.
Look how cool Honda Elements are! The back seats can fold up and into the side of the car or all the way back (as seen in the picture of this one).
We have been told more than a few times that we look like brother and sister. Nope, we’re best friends. Oh yeah, and we happen to be married, too.
(Pictured right: St. Patrick’s Day 2007- We had been dating for about a month.)
Having spent my teenage years during The Nineties, the music I will always truly love the most is from the grunge and alternative era. In fact, I proudly continue to buy the new albums of those same bands that are still around like Counting Crows, Live, Matchbox Twenty (Rob Thomas), and Third Eye Blind. And that is why I continue to remain a huge fan of Weezer. For many, if Weezer was ever relevant in any way, it was in 1995 with their hit “Buddy Holly.”
But as long as each year Weezer releases yet another self-titled or bizarrely named new album, I will surely be digging it. Yesterday in the car I was listening to their song “My Best Friend,” which never really stood out to me before. But as I listened to the lyrics, I thought of my wife:
“You are such a blessing and I won’t be messing with the one thing that brings light to all of my darkness. You’re my best friend and I love you… I’m here right beside you. I will never leave you.”
And it hit me: My wife really is my best friend!
But it’s not simply a romanticized idea. In fact, the thing that actually helps me to truly grasp the concept of my wife being my best friend is by removing any romantic aspects from our relationship. It’s a struggle, but if for a moment, I view my wife and myself not as a woman and man, but instead just two souls, I can catch a glimpse of us how we are best friends in addition to being married and in love.
Of course, both of us do have our close, same-gendered friends that we talk to. And that’s very important. But as a married couple, we refuse to let much time go by if we sense that the other is “in a moment” where they need some empathy or direction. As I always say, we strongly value communication in our marriage.
Ultimately, being best friends in a marriage often means transcending the romantic elements of the relationship. Sure, it still includes and depends on those necessary romantic elements, but it’s so much more than being in love.
I guess for me, the only way I could have ever been married was to know that I had found and was marrying my best friend. And that’s exactly what happened to me.
October 5th, 2006: we met for the first time at a taping of CMT Crossroads
February 5th, 2007: our first date at a John Mayer concert
January 14th, 2008: I proposed
July 5th, 2008: our wedding day
November 16th, 2010: our son was born
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: