A new dad reflects on his past mistakes and struggles as he hopes for a better and brighter future for his young son.
It is shortly after 8:00pm, and you, my 5-month-old baby Nicholas, are inconsolable.
You've been changed, fed, and burped. You've been read to in a soothing, upbeat tone in comedic contrast to your panicky, bloody-murder shrieks. You are up on my shoulder, snug in your sleep sack, wailing away as I gently pat your back.
My voice drops to a half-notch above a whisper as I nuzzle my mouth next to your' ear.
"It's all gonna be OK," I promise, unconvincingly.
It will all be OK. This, like all moments big and small, shall pass. You'll settle down, do your adorable little stretch-yawn, and sleep. And when you wake up, you'll have the benefit, exclusive to infancy, of having remembered none of this trauma.
It will all be OK. You'll grow up with the world at your fingertips. Ten years from now, on your iPhone 26 Plus, you'll have omnipresent connectivity with family and friends, and instant access to an unlimited amount of useful information. And an unlimited amount of video games, sensationalist media, and general moronitude.
It will all be OK. The average cost of a four-year private college is just shy of $130,000. Totally reasonable. And surely it won't get much higher over the next 18 yea...
... It will all be OK. New Jersey has some exemplary state universities.
It will all be OK. Your eyesight won't be 20/60 corrected, like you father's is, courtesy of a rotted optic nerve. You won't need to go through the abject horror of slowly losing your vision while a chorus line of doctors with increasingly intimidating titles perform increasingly scary tests. You'll never be subjected to an electroretinogram from a neuro-ophthalmologist. Or three MRIs to rule out brain tumors. Or a spinal tap to rule out multiple sclerosis or worse.
And if you did inherit that defective gene, we'll know it in your early childhood rather than early adulthood. You'll be too young to be mortified.
It's all gonna be OK. I think.
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If you inherited another time-tested Dale family tradition—crippling depression and anxiety—we'll also know that as early as possible. At least I hope so.
It will all be OK. You won't become an alcoholic like far too many of your family members. At least I so very much hope not. But if you do, there is recovery. There is direction, purpose, peace. There is love and forgiveness. If there wasn't, your mother wouldn't be in the next room, and we wouldn't be having this little chat.
It will all be OK. You're going to be tough and resilient, because your parents are more complete people for their struggles and scars. God willing, your road will be a bit easier than mine... but not too easy. Soft childhoods make soft adults, and the real world is hard. You will be safe and loved here, always. But you will also be challenged to achieve academically and grow personally.
In doing so, we'll learn together what special talents you possess, and nurture them accordingly.
It will all be OK. You can't possibly cry much longer. Or much louder.
It will all be OK. Because if and when we have this conversation again at two in the morning—and perhaps again at 5:00—I will have been entirely exhausted for far, far less life-affirming reasons.
It will all be OK, because you, dear Nicholas, are so very worth making it OK.
Christopher Dale is a freelancer and new father who, in addition to parenting-themed pieces, frequently writes on politics, society, and sober issues. Among other outlets, he has contributed to Salon, The Daily Beast and NorthJersey.com, and is a regular contributor to TheFix.com, a sober lifestyle website.