I want to always do exactly what he needs, if it’s rocking, holding, swaddling, or simply paying him the attention he needs–but sometimes I find that I fail. Of course, there’s are the obvious failures that I can’t overcome–for example, I can’t feed him. I’ve lost count of how many times he’s been fussing and rooting and, on our way to Mama for a meal, he has given me that look of betrayal and anger, as if it were my fault that I don’t have lactating breasts, then let loose with a bloodcurdling screech.
And, although I still feel bad–almost pained–when I just can’t figure out what is upsetting him, I’ve largely gotten over my feelings of guilt. I know that I’ll probably eventually figure it out, and I take solace in the fact that I’ll try almost anything to comfort him when he’s upset. Almost anything . . . you know, short of fixing him a dry, clean martini to help him relax after his hard day napping. Perhaps that’s just because we’re out of olives right now, or perhaps that’s because he’ll have to fight me for it if he wants it.
The failures that pain me the most, especially when I look back on them, are the times when I feel that I haven’t tried as hard as I can for the little guy. Most–no, all–of these times have come in the middle of the night, when I’m trying to soothe him back to sleep after he’s eaten or gotten changed. As much as possible, I try to take care of him after he eats at night to let Mama get back to sleep as soon as possible, since he just sucked a bunch of energy out of her. Although, I have to admit that she’s much better than I am at staying awake long enough to get him back to sleep.
So I find myself, after midnight, in the glider-rocker, with the little guy on my lap, in my arms, on my chest, or over my shoulder. While he’s not crying, he’s still fussing–definitely not going back to sleep soon. Now, perhaps if this was during the day, and I was fully rested, I would get up and walk him around a bit. But these episodes take place in that groggy, head-full-of-tar time when Hypnos’ cement boots are still trying to pull me under the waves of sleep washing over me, making my legs and feet heavy and my thoughts slow and stupid. So I stay in the rocker, struggling to stay awake.
What 3B probably needs most at this time is more attention from me. If I could just focus on him a bit, I could probably figure out from his fussing what it was he needed, but all the neurons that I can muster are working on how to maintain my consciousness, leaving none for his worries. Their work is not made any easier by my constant rocking which is having the effect on me that I want it to have on 3B–it puts me right to sleep.
As I was slouched there, early one morning, after a spectacular change-feed-change-feed-change cycle, which seemed to take longer than Wagner’s Ring Cycle, I went through my list of options:
- reading, which is right out because that requires too much light, which would wake up 3B
- talking to myself, which is right out because it makes too much noise, which would wake up 3B
- rubbing Tabasco sauce on my eyelids, which, according to a reliable source, works for Marines in Iraq, is right out for what I hope are obvious reasons
- trying to find a movie or show to watch on TV among all the infomercials in the wee hours of the morning
Right. So I flipped on the tube and came almost immediately to VH1 Classics, which was replaying the videos from the first day that MTV was on the air. How could I not look, especially given that I’m still trying to figure out what songs to request at my upcoming reunion? I was already feeling guilty for not being able to stay awake to help soothe 3B to sleep, and now I was adding to that my guilt for exposing him to TV and bad 80’s music all at once, but I was desperate.
It turned out OK in the end, however. The light and the noise didn’t bother him, and they helped me wake up enough to pay attention to his needs, shift his position when he needed it, and even walk him around the room a bit, until he was sound asleep. Unfortunately, it was so effective on me that by the time I took him back and put him in his bassinet, I was wide awake and hooked on the beauty and the horror of what I was seeing:
- Split Enz “One Step Ahead,” with unbelievably bad white-man-in-the-80’s dancing (it takes one to know one)
- Kate Bush “Wuthering Heights,” in which she really does a horrible mime-stuck-in-a-glass-box act in addition to all the spooky overacting
- Phil Collins “Turn It On,” which apparently not only required no jacket but also required no shirt–leaving enough room in the wardrobe budget for his two lovely red terry cloth wristbands . . . for the record, Phil Collins clad only in wristbands is as much of a turn-on as watching milk curdle
- REO Speedwagon “Don’t Let Him Go,” proving that there were so few videos, MTV would play anything, no matter if the lead singer was wearing a horrible, white, skintight jumpsuit with zig-zags drawn all over it
- Some Lee Ritenour video, which must have been the last one on the shelf . . . I’m not sure how else they could justify playing it
It turns out that there were videos that held up over time, even if the effects were a bit cheesy. Both Pat Benetar’s rockin’ “I’m Gonna Follow You” and the Pretenders’ apropos and badass “Kid” kept my hope alive that better songs would come along until I finally started to drift off myself.
But I’m still haunted with the thought that 3B may have absorbed this experience as he drifted off, and that I may have have again failed my son by dooming him to a life of loving skinny ties, big hair, and cheesy lyrics.