When I used to hear parents complain that they didn’t have even a few minutes to scan the newspaper, let alone finish a novel or catch all that year’s Oscar nominees, I inwardly scoffed (sometimes outwardly). Clearly, they just didn’t care that much about Syria or Hilary Mantel or Quentin Tarantino. I mean, really, an average newborn sleeps like 16 hours a day; you can’t squeeze in a Lydia Davis short story or a half-hour of “Girls”? Trying to talk to new moms and dads about culture felt to me like trying to talk to prison inmates about their favorite brunch spots.
Forgive me, fellow parents. I am now in that prison.
I now understand that, yes, a baby seems to sleep a lot, but that you’re watching them for many of those hours to make sure they’re still alive. (Newborn breathing, in my experience, can sound uncomfortably like a death rattle.) I’ve learned that, especially in those early months, time means nothing. Days dwindle to fleeting dots, but individual moments — like getting a sobbing kid into a car seat — can feel endless. And I’ve learned that, in the foggy, confusing, often frightening slipstream of a baby’s arrival, the things that vanish, no matter how much you love and think you need them, are the things that are not all that useful or necessary — even if they once seemed essential to your sense of self. Inessential things like antiquing or golf or, yes, going to the movies. I instantly became one of those fathers I mocked.
Jason McBride, “Two (Sucked) Thumbs Up”, The New York Times Magazine (1 September 2013), 44.