There’s a new game at our house: “Where’s Isaac?” It goes like this:
“Where’s Isaac?” Rowan will ask, usually when the baby is in my lap, nursing.
“I don’t know,” I’ll say. “Is Isaac at the market?”
“No,” Rowan will say. “Is Isaac upstairs?”
“Is Isaac at the park?”
“Is Isaac in the fridge?”
“Is Isaac at the store?”
“Is Isaac on the fan?” (This one of Rowan’s always cracks me up, as I imagine the sleepy lump of the baby whirling around, one-handed, on the ceiling fan above our heads. Yee-ha!)
This goes on for awhile, with increasing hilarity, until Rowan eventually says, “Is Isaac on your lap?” At which point, I exclaim, “There he is!” and Rowan says, “He’s drinking milk. From your breast.”
So, at some point, our two-and-a-half-year-old mastered the concept of irony. He gets the difference between what is said and what is meant, or (I’m playing fast and loose with literary and other terms here, but what the hell) what is and what we say is, and why that’s sometimes funny. And I am somewhat in awe — and thrilled — that he gets this already.
And that difference — the difference between what is and what we say is — sums up a lot of what parenting is about for me the second time around. You could call it perspective. When Rowan was born, and through much of his infancy, everything seems so much bigger than it was, so much more important, so much scarier. If we didn’t sleep now, we weren’t ever going to sleep. If he cried, it was disaster. If we made one mistake, handled him at all incorrectly, we’d ruin the baby for ever more. (“Where’s Rowan?” “In therapy.”)
And with Isaac, it feels as though what is and what we say is going on seem a little bit closer to each other. If Isaac cries, he’s crying, period. And while we don’t enjoy it, we do our best to comfort him and get on with things. If we’re tired, or awakened, it’s more or less simply that, and eventually we’ll all get some sleep.
So, where is Isaac? Isaac is here, now — all 11 pounds and counting of him — and not in some imaginary land of worry and disaster. Isaac is adorable. Isaac is starting to smile, prefers to be held rather than put down, is losing his hair, and sometimes sleeps three hours at a stretch. It’s tiring, definitely, and often challenging, but here, ironically, is a better place than there.