30/52: Between Two Clocks

July 19, 2014

We had just arrived at my parents’ house after a 10-hour trip that had been lengthened by potty stops, dinner delays, and holiday traffic. By the end of our odyssey, we were beat.

Well, three of us were at least. My son wanted to wake up and check out his grandparents’ digs. Since I had barely seen him in three weeks, and Sara had been a lock for sainthood, I summoned the energy to take my son to the living room couch.

In the stillness of night, I became aware of something previously unnoticed. On one side of us came the monotone of a clock. Steady. Deliberate. A dull psychology professor reading from a textbook. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. On the other side, another clock talked to us with the urgency of a poet, trying to share the essence of an idea ready to break. He spoke in iambic feet. Peripatetic. Neurotic. Tick-TOCK. Tick-TOCK. Tick-TOCK.

These dueling clocks did not help my efforts in getting my son to sleep. Elliot was suddenly invigorated, his body filling with insomnia like a hose filling with water. The stimuli of each tick caused his head to shift from one side to the next, as if he were watching tennis in the dark. He desperately tried to find the source of the noise, continuously lifting his head up in spite of my attempts to rest his hairy dome on my chest.

When we were just getting to know each other, getting my son to sleep was one of my favorite things to do. I would walk him and rock him until he started showing the beautiful signs of slumber. Eyeballs waning like moons. Breaths amplified. Tiny muscles losing tension. I loved giving him what he needed and feeling a sense of trust from such a helpless little lifeform.

During those times, the clock ticks were all slow. All methodical. Seeming like they could go on forever if we just kept quiet. Now he changes with the day. His sounds are on the way to becoming words. His behaviors and expressions are coalescing into a personality. His uncoordinated movements are gathering into controlled locomotion. The tick-TOCK tick-TOCK tick-TOCK of purpose.

So as I walked around with him, getting reacquainted with the night, I found myself between these two clocks. One side of my heart ticking with the curiosity of what he will be, anxiously leaning into the future. The other side desperately trying to relax, slowing down my heart enough to hear the peaceful regular rhythm of a sleeping baby boy.




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