Happy New Year! 2015 looks like it will be an event-full year for the WayGood World. In addition to our Ireland Tour, we’ve added a new all-inclusive “January Thaw 2016” Tour to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. We hope to return to England this summer. We have our Songwriters Weekend in Dubuque and are looking at creating one for Ontario, Canada. And as this newsletter comes out, we are back from the APAP convention and on our way to California for our first official performing arts center in the Golden State at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz.
And of course, there is the first birthday of my daughter Áine on January 14. Karen Sundberg, who is our marketing director at WayGood, has asked me for a long time to write some thoughts about Áine and fatherhood in general. I have avoided it for a year, preferring to put some photos up on Facebook every now and then, but in particular keeping photographic documentation of her growth, at first sitting inside and now alongside my bass guitar case. But with a full year now under my belt, I can look back and comment on fatherhood and raising a baby.
But pretty soon, Áine started taking notice of her world. She could crack a great smile and made great baby noises. No real articulation of any kind, more like just smacking her lips and little sounds and snuffles. It was a great time as she slowly started to focus on who Mom was. As for Dad, I was more like something that moved around the house, was not cuddly, had no milk to offer, and rocked her back and forth late at night. How to vomit on that creature or at least pee on him during the diaper change seemed to be her goal. The hardest part was coming back from the road and having her look at me with bewilderment. Considering our wives look at Brian and myself the same way after stretches out on tour is one thing. But having Áine look at me that way was an odd sensation.
It was about this time that I thought I would write a song about Áine and how wonderful it is to have this new life totally dependent on Annie and me. I thought the muse would assist me to come up with something beautiful and touching. But the muse struck me around 3 a.m. one night when Áine was crying in her crib. I woke up and half asleep looked around for some clothes to put on. “Poppa’s gotta put on his old black pants,” I called out to her. Then I thought, “Hmmm, that could be the start of a fun song” and so, bouncing Áine up and down on my shoulder, I started working on a song that is now “The Old Barn Dance.” Not exactly the beautiful ode to my daughter, but a fun song all the same.
It’s been hard to say who she looks the most like. I cannot see a lot of myself in her, but more of Annie’s side of the family. A lot of folks think she looks like Annie’s dad. She might have my hair. I pray she has Annie’s brains at least.
Áine loves to smile. She started smiling and laughing sincerely at six weeks and is also one of the most outgoing people I know. When we go to the grocery store, she acts like she owns it and greets everyone as they pass in the aisle. It is amazing how a smiling baby can disarm even the crustiest of people. When we took her to the Brookfield Zoo, Áine was more interested in the little kids swarming in to look at the pygmy hippo than the pygmy hippo. “Look Áine,” I said. A pygmy hippo!” She ignored me and waved frantically at the toddlers.
Perhaps we need to start having babies around important events, like the G7 summit or in Congress. It would be great to see how quickly legislation would pass if Congress has to do some bi-partisan diaper changing at least.
She also has a great sense of musical ability. I was thrilled when she started to sing. We have done some duets together in the kitchen. No real words yet, just some baby words. She really impressed her doctor and nurse when she was able to snap her fingers at her nine-month check-up (we have it on video, in case you don’t believe it). For Christmas she received a piano and has taken to it and understands that it creates music. The guitar is also something she enjoys strumming. Her curiosity has created a drum set out of the frying pans and cookie sheets, which she enjoys taking out of the cabinets.
Of course, the learning curve hasn’t all been Áine’s. I have had to learn several things, such as never raising your baby above your head when in a doorway. Never turn your back on a baby when she has a book in her hand lest she eats pages three through six. Dust bunnies are indeed edible and quite delicious for nine month olds. Do not cook with a baby, ever. Babies do not like folded clothes. Babies don’t care about wearing hats, or socks, or diapers when they can get away with it. If one thinks a changed diaper means that the baby will not soil the next one in under a minute with a deluge that would impress Noah, one hasn’t met my baby.
It was a huge moment when she first said Momma. Tears sprang to my eyes and I eagerly awaited the moment she would turn to me with outstretched arms and say Poppa. She learned the word “button” next from her Dziadek. She turned to me with outstretched arms and said “Button.” I said, “No, Áine, it is Poppa! Poppa!” She smiled and said “Button.” I still await the day she says Poppa. She will probably said “Uncle Brian” before Poppa. Or “molecular synthesis” or something like that. Áine at least now looks at me when Annie says, “Where’s Poppa?” At least the stuffed bear is no longer her father
The credit for our beautiful child goes to Annie. She has upended her life totally while I have been able to keep mine in some semblance of order. Somehow, she has managed to raise a baby and keep working from home. My physician brother Fran mentioned that parents lose over 800 hours of sleep in the first year of a child’s life. I admit that I feel tired and that Áine has made me feel more like a monk rising up for the matins than a musician at times. But whatever I have experienced has paled in comparison to what Annie has experienced. True, there is a stronger bond between mother and child, but that bond comes at a price. If there is a resolution for 2015, it is for me to be even more of an attentive father and understanding husband. Somehow included in all of that is being a musician. As many of you have been saying to me in the WayGood World, “Blink and she will have grown.” The joy that she lives her life reminds me to actively seek out the joy that exists in mine. It never went away, has always been there, but it has taken a little girl to point it out to me again.