Friday Letter 5/11/2021

Hi, Friday!

These letters were supposed to start right after you were born. Well, the first Friday after your birth (you were born on a Monday). You were born during a period of great transition for me and will not recognize the man writing these letters by the time you can read them. I was not always the rugged, responsible man you’re accustomed to now–oh no! I was (or am at the time of writing this) a bit of a late bloomer, all dreams and ambition.

I’m a 35-year-old man, slightly overweight (yes, that’s right, I didn’t always have a six pack), and have yet to publish my first novel. If only I knew now what I will know then! You probably won’t believe that I didn’t run 8 kilometers every morning like I will then. In fact, I have yet to really commit to any fitness routine worthy of note.

Your mother and I sleep next to you every night. It’s called “co-sleeping” and I had to quit smoking and abstain for drinking to sleep next to you safely. I still worry about crushing you to death in my sleep and often awake in a panic. Yet, despite your life hanging in the balance, “co-sleeping”[1] has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Though, I have yet to dream about you. I will let you know when that happens.

I don’t know very much about babies. The first diaper I changed in my entire life was yours. Your poop was black or dark green. It’s all the stuff you accumulated in your stomach during the brief stint inside my wife’s (your mother’s) uterus. The word for your weird, first, blackish-green poop is meconium.

On November 2, 2021, the psychologist and author, Paul Bloom, as if he knew you’d been on the outside for three months, published an article in The Atlantic titled, What Becoming a Parent Really Does to Your Happiness. It’s an excerpt from his new book, The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning (2021). I hope this link still works when you read this. He writes like he’s your close friend and you can talk about anything. You can even try on ideas you don’t necessarily believe in or want to be true or have been thinking about all wrong. I haven’t read The Sweet Spot yet, but I will get around to it (or will I?). I really enjoyed Just Kids and Against Empathy (what a title!). But why am I saying this…do I still ramble like this to you?

Paul Bloom writes in his Atlantic article:

Children make some happy and others miserable; the rest fall somewhere in between—it depends, among other factors, on how old you are, whether you are a mother or a father, and where you live. But a deep puzzle remains: Many people would have had happier lives and marriages had they chosen not to have kids—yet they still describe parenthood as the “best thing they’ve ever done.” Why don’t we regret having children more?

One possibility is a phenomenon called memory distortion. When we think about our past experiences, we tend to remember the peaks and forget the mundane awfulness in between. Senior frames it like this: “Our experiencing selves tell researchers that we prefer doing the dishes—or napping, or shopping, or answering emails—to spending time with our kids … But our remembering selves tell researchers that no one—and nothing—provides us with so much joy as our children. It may not be the happiness we live day to day, but it’s the happiness we think about, the happiness we summon and remember, the stuff that makes up our life-tales.”

This could be because I’m a male between the ages of 26-52, but I’ve only felt happier since you were born. I mean, it’s only been three-months, but so far, so good, right? Other than contemplating the finite nature of existence and constantly worrying about your well-being, I’m all smiles and songs.

Whenever you’re stressed or restless, I sing “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams” from Dean Martin’s 1959 album, Sleep Warm. You seem to like it.

I do a pretty good rendition of this song. How’s my singing been lately?

Or maybe it’s because you were planned? Well, you weren’t really planned so much as inspired–willed? Your mother (my wife) and I wanted you the moment we met. It’s not popular to admit of such impulsiveness, but your mother and I fell in love at first sight (don’t laugh!). I knew in a moment that I wanted her and you. I guess a thirty-something man wanting to start a family isn’t really that out of the ordinary, but it was jarring for me.

We have a big trip coming up, but I will tell you more about it next Friday. I’ve been reading you Alice in Wonderland (1865) & Aesop’s Fables (approx. 600 BCE). Also, I’ve started a library for you. It’s mostly classics (some first printings!) and all in English…your mother (my wife) will select the Icelandic titles. Do people still read? What’s your favourite book?

Make sure you tell me.

[1] “co-sleeping” is one of these terms created online to give the impression of scientific classification. The more accurate and less bullshit-y verb is “sleeping” followed by “next to”.