How Becoming A Dad Has Completely Destroyed My Understanding Of Time

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The following was syndicated from The Huffington Post as a part of The Daddy Diaries for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].

Lev turned 16 months today. He woke up at 6:00 AM. interrupting a dream in which I was about to take a bite of some homemade bruschetta with goat cheese, lemon and olive oil. Not as bad as the other day when Lev woke Michelle up just before she was about to meet Oprah. But still. That was some good bruschetta and it was inches from my mouth.

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I understand why a popular podcast calls this phase of parenthood the longest shortest hour. Time flies by in a mix of delirious joy and excruciating exhaustion.

Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. There are very few antidotes to the way time races by. One is a traditional martial arts training method called the horse stance. Basically, you are sitting in a chair but without the chair. If you hold that squat position for half an hour, time does not fly. It barely crawls. Like having a baby, it’s tiring and painful but the rewards are considerable.

I never used to hit the snooze button much because I never used an alarm clock but nowadays, when we get Lev his bottle of milk it’s like hitting a snooze button. He has learned to drink while laying in bed, by resting the bottle on his his chest at just the right angle, like Keith Richards. And that allows us about 10 minutes of additional rest during which time speeds up such that 10 minutes goes by in about 2 seconds.

I understand why a popular podcast calls this phase of parenthood the longest shortest hour.

Lev slept in his crib the entire night which was a minor victory. I let him sleep with his shoes and a down jacket on, like Chris Farley after a bender. So first I had to undress him, change his diaper and dress him again. Got him his milk and for about 10 minutes I had the equivalent of hitting that glorious snooze button while he slurped softly in a daze.

The problem with hitting a snooze button is the kind of sleep you get is like the kind of life you have after you’re told you have 10 days to live. You count every second. You know the shoe’s about to drop. It’s not really sleep. It’s waiting.

I open my eyes and peek at how much milk is left in his bottle. Like sand through an hourglass, the part of the bottle with milk in it steadily decreases. And with each slurp I know we’re getting closer to the end of sleep. Because once he’s done with that last sip, his day is starting and he is ready.

Lev is a bit of an amateur beat boxer and the minute he wakes up he likes to start practicing all the sounds he can make: gurgle, shout, whisper, glottals, diphthongs, quick tongue movements, clicking sounds. He just lays there and runs through all the vocal noises he can make and even though I am bone-achingly tired I start to join him and we go back and forth in a volley of strange gurgles and shouts until Michelle opens one eye and looks at us with that singular look that means both “I love you and I am going to kill you,” and then it’s breakfast.

Time gets weird during the first 2 years of a baby’s life.

I look at the microwave to see what time it is. 6:04 AM. A time of day when I like to be dreaming about breakfast, not making it. Lev is shouting a nonstop series of guttural phlegmatic incantations; it sounds like Jackie Mason just swallowed helium and is trying to clear his throat. I limp across the living room like a wounded ape, while he clings to me, shouting and whooping with excitement that’s beyond making sense. It’s the nonsensical thrill of trying to make sense of an unknown world, a brain in the act of evolving.

Time gets weird during the first 2 years of a baby’s life. It’s like watching a monkey evolve into a homosapien in a sped-up time lapse. It’s like life with the fast forward button stuck down. Part of me can’t remember what the passage of time was like before Lev, but I don’t think I spent so much of it yearning for a nap. And yet as he gurgles out what sounds like a mix of Dutch, Ukrainian and Arab curse words, I remember he has no sense of time at all. He is swimming in the present moment. And we’re both having the time of our life.

Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.

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