My baby turns nine months today which means that she has lived outside of me for the general ogling, snuggling, and worrying over just as long as she was in my belly for the general ogling, snuggling and worrying over en utero. Sometimes I still catch a look at her, particularly when she does something so...human?...and which demonstrates character, like this morning when we went to Itsy Bitsy Yoga and the teacher wasn't there and she sort of looked up at me like, you interrupted my nap for this? and I wonder, How did you get this way? How did your little downy newborn head slip out of my Texas quarterback grip and roll nine months away from me? That is what the visceral experience of having a nine month-old is like. She is nine months away from me. In nine years she will be nine years away from me. I feel the tug because, as Rachel Cusk writes in the book quoted yesterday, she was in my consciousness for nine whole months and therefore she will forever be in my consciousness. I feel strange, skinned when she is not with me, and yet I feel a mournfulness for my old, untethered life when she is with me. She is developing her own personality, her own set of likes (banana slices, chucking pacifiers into the pacifier junkyard behind her crib) and dislikes (green beans, having her diaper changed) and these are outside the realm of my control. They exist in a sphere that is all Madigan, penetrable by countless influences, of which her father and I will be competing all day and all night for the rest of her life. This is the best and hardest part of being a parent. We can and will mightily love her enough that she will know that she can always return to us; we are her place of origin. We can and will mightily train her enough that she will know that she is not meant to remain forever with us in this place of origin. But knowing our responsibilities and executing them accordingly does not mean they are any easier.
One thing that has gotten a bit easier, though, in light of this responsibility is contending with other afflictions and dilemmas. I used to completely crumble at insensitivity, used to obsess Carrie Bradshaw-style about conversations I would never have, about e-mails i would never send, about people that really should not have pulled such weight in my decision-making. Now those pestilences are but pesky little gnats at the corner of my consciousness. I squint to see them, swat randomly at them, and get on with the business of developing a sound and godly character in my daughter. Who has, at times, been known to give me the most joy I have ever experienced in this life.
Can't you just hear her? "Dad! You're doing it wrong. Can I drive?"
The baby books don't tell you this: By nine months, child will totally pose for pictures with face mashed up against mesh pack n' play netting because child will know it is funny.