When an adult baby wakes up in his crib I like to think that it can be like waking from the warmth of sleep and dreams into a sense of safety and security. But there’s a time before that moment, and I’m reminded of it this morning. It’s the time when daddy is awake and his little guy is still sound asleep, paci in his mouth and curled up under his blanky.
It’s in that space just before dawn where daddy can sometimes feel alone but, if he’s lucky, can also remember his connection to something big and important and wonderful.
Now, I’ve been really busy lately with all the adult stuff that I love. When I’m on the run, I sometimes find myself waking up extra early – my mind doesn’t want to stay asleep, I guess, and I get a head start on the day by hopping out of bed an hour or two early.
This morning, I was sitting here and remembering what it was like when I had a little guy around. And I was thinking about what goes through your mind in those hours before the sun comes up.
The Big Wide Sky
If you’ve ever sat on a beach at sunrise you’ll know that there can be this mix of feelings: awe at how beautiful the world is, but also a sort of sadness. Sometimes it takes looking at the sky to remind us that we walk alone in life in so many ways, no matter how close we are to people or who we have in our lives.
I wonder sometimes whether that latter feeling, the one of being alone, is what brings a special feeling to the daddy/son relationship. It creates a bond that transcends the many wonderful things about “just” being in a relationship. It says that not only are we not alone, but we’re depended upon, we’re needed: the son is needed as much as the dad because his very existence communicates to someone else that they are important.
But if taking care of a little guy was only about feeling less alone, then I also wonder whether we wouldn’t bring more of our controlling or dominating sides to the relationship. Maybe exerting control, for some people, is a way to stave off the sense that there are some things we CAN’T control – our lives march on towards their inevitability.
I know for myself I can get a welling up feeling of impatience sometimes. I get this feeling sometimes when I feel like my little guy isn’t feeling safe or secure and I get frustrated if I can’t seem to help him get to the little places he wants to be. I think that this feeling comes from that deep space of being afraid of loneliness.
The Gentle Place
The days that are most beautiful, though, are the ones where I wake up and sit with a coffee looking out the window and I kind of nod to myself: “yup, this is all you’ve got really, just you and the morning sky, and isn’t that an amazing gift right on its own.”
It probably sounds corny. Or maybe even a little unrealistic or something: but it means a lot to me that I can start the day happy that I don’t have much more than who I am in this single instant – tomorrows don’t matter, yesterdays are gone.
Everything else ripples out like widening circles from that simple place.
Sharing a Safe Place
In caring for someone, I don’t expect them not to be afraid of being alone. I know how difficult and scary life can be. It can be filled with pressure, and a feeling that you don’t belong, or insecurities about being different or odd.
So can you see what a gift a little guy gives his daddy? Because maybe in some way he’s asking: “share some of the safe place with me, let me into that part of your circle where what’s happening right now is all that matters.”
What an incredible gift – to ask a dad to widen the circle to include his little guy. To create the safety, trust, patience and caring that maybe, just maybe, will let you both experience the vast possibilities of being “now”.
And a dad is given another incredible gift: because he’s given the tools to make that circle easier to define, to see, to touch and even smell. If only every relationship had access to such an amazing tool kit: specific, tangible things that are like little guide posts marking the safe spaces of that circle.
So after my morning coffee, I’d make sure that my little guy had ways to remember that the circle is still strong and he’s still safe inside it.
I might get his stuffed animals and sit them on the couch in a little gang facing the TV for when he grabs a few minutes of cartoons before breakfast. Or put one of his toy trucks out on the dining table. I might pull out the little kid tooth brush I have with the Elmo handle and put it by the bathroom sink. Or I might make a shopping list and put it out where he can see it, adding a few special items to the list of soup and bread and other stuff: “baby powder, wipes, new bib, milk”.
You see, before you even wake, daddy is thinking about you. Alone, maybe, but in his thoughts he’s widening the circle, a little more each day, and maybe it can grow big enough so that the whole world seems warm and safe and other people can learn that even alone, the child we have inside is not afraid to say: “yeah, that may be, I may be alone, but hold me tight anyways, because for right now, having you beside me is all that matters.”