He was three months old. He rarely slept, and certainly never through the night. He threw up after nursing, over and over again. His weight gain was so slow that it seemed he was just trolling us. He cried, he screamed, and he refused comfort, preferring to luxuriate in his misery (or, at least, that’s how it seemed to me).
He was cute, I’ll give him that. I’ll admit, I took a sinful amount of pride in how he cute he was as a baby. Each compliment was not just well-earned, but also well-deserved. Those people who didn’t compliment him with sufficient fervor were cut out of our lives immediately.
But despite all that, I did not feel connected to him.
I loved him, sure. He was adorable, and he had boosted my social standing in my wife’s eyes because I was no longer just a mere husband—I was a father. And look at how sweet we were together!
But I did not feel connected to him. And that made me feel like a sociopath.
I mean, I had thought that the sense of emotional connection would be instantaneous. I would hold him in my arms for the first time when he was freshly born, wrap him up in my embrace, and our souls would mesh together as father and son in a bond that would transcend time and give weight to the poets’ words for generations to come.
But that didn’t happen. He was, as I mentioned above, a difficult baby. It took him well over a year to sleep soundly through the night. No night could be defeated unless he was properly swaddled, and no swaddle was proper in the eyes of our Lord. He commandeered my wife, stole the remainder of my youthful energy, pooped in my car, peed on my bed, and disrupted my life in ALL of the ways.
I loved him always. But sometimes . . . sometimes I didn’t like him all that much. And no one had warned me I might feel that way.
It wasn’t until later that I confided my shameful feelings to a friend of mine from church. (He had several kids of his own already, as evidenced by how quickly and furtively he ate his food, always watching over his shoulder for a tiny hand to dart out of the foggy gloom to grab his last bite from his defeated grasp.)
I told him that I sometimes didn’t like my kid (for all the reasons that I’ve raised previously) and that I felt terribly guilty whenever I had these feelings (or any feelings, really—I’m a Summerlin male, so emotions were neither encouraged or discussed) about my son. “I might be a sociopath,” I confided.
But luckily, my friend did not confirm my gloomy self-diagnosis. Instead, he said that he had felt that way too about his own son. During the early months of his son’s life, the child hadn’t stopped screaming. Non-stop. For MONTHS. Everyone was miserable.
This sounded worse. Sure, I shouldn’t revel or rejoice in the suffering of my friend just because it made my life by comparison look far more manageable. But of course, I did. Because I might be a sociopath, as noted above.
But it really did help me to hear from a peer that my feelings were somewhat more normal than I had thought.
Especially when he said that at some point during that first year, something clicked with him and his son, and he finally felt the connection he had been lacking.
And that’s just how it worked for me and my son, too. At some point later that year, we finally achieved that fabled father-son bond that I had expected to be mine by right. It didn’t come in a flash of light or accompanied by fireworks. It was just a small realization on my part, during a quiet moment of reflection, when I finally felt that connection with my son. He touched his impossible soft and tiny fingers to my face as he gazed into my eyes from a few inches away. And that was enough.
I can neither confirm nor deny that I’m actually a sociopath (on that, the doctors remain divided). But if I’m not alone in how I felt those first few months, then maybe what I was experiencing was somewhat normal.
Or else we’re all just sociopaths together.
I’ll take that, too.