Travelling Europe musing the contradictions of parenthood

Sometimes I feel like life is a wonderfully complicated tapestry of non sequiturs and I’m just a measly piece of thread blindly weaving my way through.  

Lately I have been incredibly inactive, despite traversing great stretches of Europe almost weekly. Not only have I not written a note or a word, I haven’t even practiced as there never seems to be a piano in my direct proximity. Mind you, I strongly recommend having kids, perhaps just not your own. They tend to take all your time, assets, energy and happiness, and over time find a way of hating you for not letting them drive your car to engage in debatable activities with their latest fully-tattooed and tongue-pierced ‘friend’. Okay, maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, a side affect of the Kafkaesque sleep-deprivation experiment I voluntarily enrolled in three months ago. Is the honeymoon period with Baby Nikita beginning to wane? Perhaps, but all it takes is a random look, a couple of smiles, and I’m totally hooked again.  

 

The contradictions of parental life  

My storytelling abilities have taken a nose-dive too, as the bulk of my audience for the past weeks has been this tiny creature whose critical judgement to tell good fiction from a series of run-on sentences which curve off into infinity (approximately the time it takes to get her to sleep) is debatable, though I have noticed her propensity to cry increases when I lace the storyline with personal anecdotes. I’ve taken to imagining her as a super-smart but immensely evil genius (a cross between Homer Simpson’s boss and Machiavelli), inwardly laughing (while outwardly crying) at my poor attempts to comfort her.  

Full of sarcasm and mischief, she dominates the living room from the valley of my arms, while thinking of what to make me do next. “Shake sugar cubes in a glass jar, Daddy” advise her judicious eyes. This seems to have just the right combination of difficulty and sound to tire me and disturb the neighbours all at once. She gets quiet for that and waits to see what will happen next. A lot of sugar-cube-shaking later I think I’m qualified to both mix drinks professionally and apply for a degree in percussion. “No, I think I’ll keep crying and see what else you can come up with.” 

The other ultimate question. (The classic ultimate question was recently solved for me: What is the sound of one hand clapping? A slap.) 

So why do babies cry? I’ve always prided myself on being an excellent comforter. Able to discern the problem and quickly take care of it before it becomes truly bothersome. (Just ask my ex-wife.) People always tell you, “Babies cry, end of story. Don’t worry about it.” I can’t not worry about it. That is like saying, “People die. Don’t worry about it.” True, there is some wisdom in that approach, but merely knowing that unfortunate things happen regularly does very little to ease the inherent pain they bring (take airplane food for example.) The other thing worth noting is the level of crying. No one can adequately prepare you for a crying baby when she really loses it. I’m half expecting social services to come knocking at our door every night.  

 

Attached or not attached?  

As I find myself growing more and more fond of this tiny tyrant I wonder about the conundrum “If you love someone, set them free” which is counterintuitive, to say the least. We experience life by getting attached to things and people, and those we truly get to love begin to feel like an extension of ourselves. At its very core life is about the joining of forces, the coming together of people. So why would we ever want to let them go? (and if so, where to?) Maybe this phrase is in reference to ‘separation anxiety’ which in the larger sense can’t really exist if you genuinely feel someone is part of you. I guess the difficulty in feeling someone is part of you comes when that part starts to express free will, mainly in the form of demanding cash. 

 

Endings and beginnings  

From the little child-raising experience I have so far I really have to stand in awe of everything that is happening. The daily miracles abound and I have never felt so lucky to be part of the action. As we all know from personal experience, there is more to life that is mysterious than not, nowhere exemplified more fully than in a baby. While at this point we’ve only been living in Paris for a week, she already seems to have mastered the word “lait”, which is oddly appropriate because it makes up 100 percent of her diet. Then again kids are supposed to be good with languages. We plan on speaking to her in English, Italian, Greek and hope she’ll pick up French at school(at that rate she will start speaking just in time for college.) Maybe with all those languages we’re trying to lessen the chance of her not talking to us during those difficult teenage years? Somehow I don’t think it works that way. Somehow I think it works every way and no way and no matter what way it finally does, will have to be the way. 

 

Julian Gargiulo is a pianist and composer who divides his time between wishing sabre-toothed tigers weren’t extinct and making paper pirate hats out of his old bios. Contact the globetrotting pianist on [email protected] 

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