Letters to Holly

Tuesday, November 2

I'm Spewing Here. You Can Ignore It.

I have felt for a while now that my role as a dad has become marginalized. I hadn't put the deputy to bed for four nights in a row, despite my protests that I need to pull my weight. I'm concerned that Your Sister doesn't get a breather nor will he trust me. I feel a mix of guilt and shameful relief that I do relatively little to care for him. I'm also insufficient on a basic level; I can't yank up my shirt and offer him some solace at a moment's notice. Before I can warm a bottle, Your Sister jumps in to feed and quiet him. It's sensible; he's calmed quickly. But it removes me from the baby-soothing toolbox. And it happens often.

A few days ago, I suggested that I watch him while she voted this morning. I could tell as soon as I mentioned it that she wasn't keen on the idea, and I heard no objections. Last night, she instead offered to feed him, vote as soon as the ballots opened, and return before I woke up. I swallowed my objections and said OK.

ASIDE: "OK" is quickly becoming my secret codeword for "it's easier to go along with this, but I'm quickly losing relevance, and it's getting pretty fucking old."

Your Sister asked me to check on him last night as he was sleeping and change his diaper if need be. He was already squeaking in his sleep, which means he's waking up. He was wrapped in clothing, requiring me to shuck a sleep bag and a pair of pants. That made him immediately cold, and he shrieked. I checked his diaper, and it was dry. So I had done this for nothing. I tried to quickly get him bundled back up, but he is a terror to put pants on. He constantly kicks, and you have to put them on three or four times each leg. I hate putting pants on him, and I think it's unnecessary in general. Now he was screaming.

I threw the pants into the hall, zipped up his sleep bag and moved him back to the crib to warm and calm him. Your Sister came in -- prompted by surprise flying pants -- and offered to feed him, which I interpreted as being benched. That didn't help. I scooped him back up, hoping my body heat would make him sleep quicker, but he was now screaming with a hoarse-voiced fury. She sat in the rocker to prepare to feed him, and I dropped him in her lap, calling myself an idiot and giving up. I was furious. I stormed out of the room and clamped down before I yelled or punched a wall.

I have a temper. It takes a lot to get it going, and that's by design. I've worked hard to make it a thick boil. I tamp it down as it starts up, and I do things like say "OK" to keep the waters still. But when it goes, it goes, and it takes all I have to remind myself that being a stupid angry person just makes a larger mess to clean up later. I wish it didn't feel so good to hit that rage button. I wish I had tackling dummies at my command. I wish I didn't get worked up over something as fundamental as a crying baby. The hospital's PURPLE video was right in all ways. I remind myself that his screams aren't a sign I've failed him. It's a problem to solve, not a judgment.

I wish most that I didn't begrudge Your Sister the things my angry brain suspects her of. I usually don't think she's claiming the baby as her own, either because I'm incompetent or she's controlling. But my angry brain is as paranoid as it is eager to fuel itself with stupidity. And it's equally fearful that I'll once again come home to a trashed house and an escaped wife (with the added abstract abandonment by my son.)

I tried to explain my feelings last night, but I bit my tongue in some places. It was late. Late-night arguments are never good. She said I do pull my weight, that I'm a good father. I dunno. I feel like a third wheel.

I set my alarm early his morning, hoping Your Sister could go vote. Your Sister was feeding the sidekick and suggesting another option, possibly the fourth so far. She would go vote when I came home from work. I've heard that kind of suggestion before. It leads to her backing away from what she wants and dropping it altogether. I again offered to watch and feed him so she could go before I left for work. She wouldn't have it. I took that personally, that my reasonable idea was less attractive to her than giving up on what she wanted. We both would be left unsatisfied. OK, I said.

Not long after, she suggested we go at the same time, taking him with us and going in opposite directions when we were through. This struck me as needless work; why take him along to distract us both? Why waste time getting him ready to leave and pack his things in the car? What was wrong with my original idea? And here comes angry brain.

"You don't trust me with him."
"I do."
"Then why make this more difficult by taking him with you?"
"You'll be late for work."
"I wouldn't be if we had pursued my idea a half-hour ago."
"Alright, I'll go."
"He'll be alive when you get back."

Off she went. I changed him and collected myself. He spit up on my shirt, and I changed myself, now laughing at the silliness. That's the only good thing about my temper: When the fever breaks, I have an almost euphoric high as my head clears. I was in a very good mood when she returned.

ASIDE: Yes, I've considered that some chemicals in my brain are unsettled. I have images of my default brain looking aghast at my angry brain and wanting to slap it into coherence. So my default brain wants to treat my angry brain the way my angry brain wants to treat the world. Great. I've also considered that maybe decades of watching pro wrestling and a steady diet of bullying as a kid has turned me into Bruce Banner, secretly wanting to be inconvenienced so I could righteously go bananas. That would mean I perceive the world as an intentional barrage at myself. Wunderbar. The problem is me. I know this.

When Your Sister returned, I gave her some room to ease us into a conversation. She seemed alright. I was contrite. I don't want us to be on bad terms (angry brain doesn't want to give her a reason to leave), and she doesn't need two babies in the house. This baby experiment isn't about me and my imagined offenses. I can't help her if I'm untrustworthy. If I'm easily inflamed. If I'm stupid.

I'm supposed to put him to bed tonight. I'll feel better on the other side of it.

I'm probably gonna stay home Saturday instead of going to the roller derby. I shouldn't traipse off while she's trapped in a nursing cave.

ASIDE: Like her, I'll abstain from something I really want to ensure I've learned my lesson. We were made for each other, and if I can stay out of my way, I won't chase her off to find a man who isn't demented or lazy. The cliche question about where have all the nice guys gone? There are no nice guys, just more stupid guys with varying means of eating their anger. There should be PURPLE videos on menfolk. Our screaming isn't a judgment, just a problem to be solved.

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