what the fuck just happened

Actual text conversation with a friend who just became a dad:

Me: Do you need a dinner tonight?
Him: We've got some frozen stuff, so we're good.
Me: Great! Let us know if you have any questions, but I know you've got this.
Him: Question 1: What the fuck just happened?

Best. Question. Ever.

And a lot harder to answer than, "how tight to the car seat straps need to be" or "how often should we be feeding this critter?"

This is a recurring theme on this blog and any other parenting blog that keeps it real.

What. The fuck. Just happened.

The night Chicken was born, Ryan went home so he would not have to sleep on the damnable hospital cots that feel and smell like repurposed Greyhound bus seats. At 2 am, Chicken woke up and cried. I lay in the hospital bed and waited, listening to his new voice. The room glowed softly, dark but illuminated by the electronic greens and blues of powered-up medical machines. I walked to him where he lay in the wheeled bassinet, and looked down at his mushy little face. I thought, "this is the first time I'll ever do this. This is the first time I wake up in the middle of the night to be a mother."

What the fuck just happened?

We went home when Chicken was a week old. I couldn't stop worrying. What if I got the flu? What if the baby choked? How was I going to go to the grocery store? For the first time in my life, I did not believe that I had the wherewithal to take care of my shit. For the first time in my life, I did not believe I had a backbone, or a brain, or two strong arms, or even a beating heart. I lay like a quivering heap of jell-o - heavy, sentient, messily unpacked.

What the fuck just happened?

Circumcision. Nobody told me that foreskin looks like calamari.

WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED. 

He looked at me and smiled. Not the vague, sleepy smiles of random neurons firing. He lay on a towel on the bed, warm, damp, all lotioned up. He looked up at me, my face, and smiled. I smiled back. He laughed. I laughed back. He grabbed his face in sheer delight and kicked into the air.

What the fuck just happened?

The first time he rolled. The first time he pulled his knees under his body without any instruction. The first time he slapped that palm down on the ground and heaved himself forward in a clumsy drunken crawl.

What the fuck just happened?

The first projectile vomit. The first green poop. The first nub of tooth, white and sharp as a shark's, clamping down on my finger.

What the fuck just happened?

The first time a 10-month-old Chicken hit a baby, a full-on bitch-slap across her little 5-month-old face in the middle of music class with everyone watching. He slapped the bow off her head you guys. Slapped it OFF.

What the fuck just happened?

The first time he signed "please."
The first time he woke up every hour on the hour.
The first time he slept 12 hours straight.
The first time I actually saw a poop emerge from that little butt hole.

What the fuck just happened?

I still ask myself that shit all the fucking time. TODAY, I have asked myself what the fuck was happening the following times:

I found a thumb-sized plastic carrot that I have not seen in a year and a half, inside the printer.

Today when we walked down the hall to his classroom, Chicken paused to spin a globe. I asked him, "is that a ball?" He responded, "Mommy, it's the earth."

I told Chicken it was time to get in the car. He stood up, put his truck back on the shelf, said, "bye bye truck," and walked to the door.

This morning Buster pulled himself up to stand against a table. He let go with one hand and took a first creaky, erratic step away from safety.

What the fuck just happened?

I imagine my parents asked themselves that question on the day my son was born. What the fuck just happened? they thought as they looked down at my gooey little squid baby. We just became fucking grandparents, that's what.

It's the magnificent gift and the unwavering test of children, that nothing is ever acquired, not even the things we think of as central to our humanity. I'm talking about sleep here. Having teeth. Saying please. Pooping. Liking pineapple. Disliking salmon.

Imagine a child's brain as a giant trampoline, and all of the quirks and passions and skills and qualities of the child are balls on that trampoline. Now imagine bouncing on that trampoline. Their shit is all over the place. I mean it is the definition of IN FLUX.

So today, when my friend asked me what the fuck had just happened, I was torn. On the one hand, I wanted to say "I know. Me too. All the time. It's okay."

On the other hand, I kind of wanted to pull a John McClane. You know, in the first movie, when he's trying to get Sgt. Powell's attention, and he drops the body of one of the terrorists on the police car? Powell loses his shit, all "AAAAH GODDAMN IT JESUS H CHRIST" and starts driving in mad screeching circles. And McClane just calls out the window, "welcome to the party, pal."


Yeah. Like that.

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