The Long, Dark Diaper Change of the Soul

Somehow I’ve ended up on the night shift. It’s only fair; the Missus tends to the Peanut while I’m at work (at least until her maternity leave ends in a few weeks, no doubt prompting a Battle Royale on the home front), so she needs a break sometimes — a break that usually consists of her lapsing into a coma and not moving for a few hours.

Let me say this up front: we’re friggin’ lucky parents. 90 percent of the time, our baby is happy. She really doesn’t cry unless she’s hungry or has gas. She’s not particularly fussy, and so far we’ve discerned no signs of colic, knock wood. She eats so incessantly I occasionally refer to her as Audrey II, but that’s okay — I’m the same way, actually. Like father black hole, like daughter black hole.

Then the night falls, and WriterDad Manor turns into the set of EVIL DEAD, Valley Edition. The Peanut becomes possessed. She howls. She turns various shades of red. When I hold her, she grabs my shirt and pulls me close like we’re a couple of stuntmen and she’s about to fling me through the nearest wall. And I usually get to deal with her — which, like I said, is only fair. I think.

ANYWAY, picture this: it’s four in the morning, my wife is sleeping as peacefully as she can while I pace around with the Peanut, trying to calm her. I feed her. I replace the dirty diaper. I rock her. I occasionally attempt to sing “Stairway to Heaven” to her, though I can never remember the words and she doesn’t seem to appreciate my Robert Plant imitation anyway. Eventually she falls asleep, and a silence settles over our home that is so beautiful, I want to cry. Clearly my daughter feels the same way, because that’s about when she usually starts howling again.

It’s times like this, in the wolf hours, that my own demons start their nightly invasion.

Under normal circumstances, I am a champion sleeper. I can conk out anywhere, anytime, anyhow. The Missus marvels at this ability, except when she catches me snoozing with the baby in my arms. “At least you could sit down,” she says, sensibly enough. Because of this, I have never really been kept awake by the troubles in my life. Now I have the Peanut to do it for me.

It’s when I’m shuffling across our carpet in the middle of the night, semi-conscious and trying to avoid walking into walls while I grapple with the kid, that it hits me: You’re a loser. You’ve accomplished nothing of substance with your life. You have a resume that serves as testament to this fact — it was recently updated during a brief bout of unemployment, so you can’t even argue that it’s not accurate.

This isn’t actually true (or TOO true), of course — I have a loving wife, a beautiful baby, and the day job resume is thoroughly respectable, if a tad on the mediocre side. Hell, I’ve got that stupid script option, which you’re probably thoroughly sick of reading about. By most standards, I’m doing okay. Except that I’m not making a living writing, which tends to negate everything else during the night shift.

I know — it’s not exactly brain cancer. I have nothing to complain about, and I mostly don’t. But I’ve lived with this dream so long that sometimes, when I think about how long I’ve been chipping away at it, I wonder what I could have done to speed things up. At least until I realize that maybe things are going at the pace they’re supposed to go, and all the wishing in the world won’t make a difference. I just have to keep at it.

That was easier for me to tell myself when I was alone. But now I’ve got the family to think about and provide for. And, although it’s nothing to be ashamed of, I don’t want the kid to grow up believing that her old man is a career administrative assistant. One day, when my daughter’s teacher asks her what her father does for a living, I want the Peanut to get up in front of her class and say, proudly, “My daddy is a screenwriter.” Of course, given where we live, the next kid after her will probably say, “My daddy is a writer-director-producer with a four-picture first look deal at Warner Bros, an office on the lot and a parking space with his name on it. Suck it, bitches!” So I probably can’t win this one anyway. But still — it would be nice.

In the end, I guess I just want my kid to be as proud of me as I am of her. And she probably will be, no matter what I do for a living… at least until she turns eleven or twelve, anyway. Then all bets are off.

In the meantime, anybody want to come over tonight and hold a baby for a few hours while I sleep? She’s really cute. Honest.

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2 Comments on “The Long, Dark Diaper Change of the Soul”

  1. Leena Says:

    hey writer dad, great blog, i know what you mean about working at something for years and years and never feeling like you are totally settled until that goal happens. the process of making art/being an artist is a long and tough path, but i believe that sticking to it truly works. congrats on the option, that is huge.

  2. writerdad303 Says:

    Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by, Leena! It’s funny — the older I get and the more complicated my life becomes, the more determined I am to achieve the goals I set years ago…

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