The Byford Files

Next Thing You Know, You’re Sitting at a Street Light…

I think in the transformation from husband to father, we all have a vision of what kinda father we would like to be. Sure, you want to be a father, but what kinda father. You start to develop an idea of how you want to appear to others in the supermarket or in photos that they’ll find in a drawer decades from now, maybe long after you’ve gone. How will you keep your hair? Are you slicked back, well-kept or more gruff and dragging your beard in you dinner? Do you smile or scowl in family photos? Are you gonna be the kinda father that smokes in photos?What you’ll sound like when you talk to your baby, does your voice sound closer to Mr. Ed or Mickey Mouse? What about when you sing, do you sing sincerely or playfully? What kinda cologne or fragrance will be your signature scent, musk or something more leathery? How will you accessorize? Do you have a baby bag picked out that fits your personal style? Do you have your personal style determined? Do you get a tattoo of your daughter’s name on your shoulder blade? Do you expose the tattoos in photos? What kinda music are you gonna raise your kid on? When do you stop swearing? Do you stop swearing? Maybe you want to hit the sweet spot between Brad Pitt and Alan Thicke. You want to be the intellect, but at times appear too cool for school. You want to be strong dad that’s got that single-arm baby sweep move down where you swoop down and grab the baby from a crawl and throw her over your shoulder with just one motion. You want to start a crafty blog charting and recording all of your experiences as a new father from the “unfrozen caveman lawyer” narrative. Do you carry photos around with you in a stack four-by-sixes or do you strictly stick to the iPhone because you want to be technologically savvy dad? Do you put photos up at work? Only the newest ones and no more than four? Do you scold the child in public or employ jedi mind tricks where you just stand there ominously like Darth Vader trying to will the baby to silence? Will you spank or do you categorically disagree with physical punishment for philosophical and/or psychological reasons? Do you tuck your shirt in or let the tail hang out? Do you start getting your eyebrows plucked? Do you use the word “poop,” “doo doo” or “caca”?

You build these characteristics in your mind of what you want to become in your metamorphosis into father…rules, if you will. Standards to which you will diligently strive to uphold. And all are, for the most part, completely superficial. They’re all about appearance to others. You can’t break character. You can’t let others know your weakness. You can’t cry. You can’t yawn. You can’t sound broken or defeated. You are father, hear you roar.

Then, next thing you know, you’re sitting at a street light trying to pacify a screaming toddler in the rear-facing child seat by belting out “Hakuna Matata” and, what’s worse, you’re clapping too. And, what’s even weirder, you’re clapping sixteenth notes. Now, clapping on the first and third beat is funk. Clapping on the second and fourth beat is more rhythm and blues, reggae, rock and roll. Clapping on all four means you don’t discern between the two at all. Clapping eighth notes is pretty intense. It’s also known as the “soul clap” in certain circles. Clapping sixteenth notes, which I’ve never found myself doing in my entire life, is a complete loss of your way. The system has failed. Syntax error. Reboot. Restart. Reload the software.

**It was later noted that, as a bassist and son of bassist, I shouldn’t even be able to identify sixteenth notes, but rather refer to them as “dem tiny notes that violins play.”

The guy in the car next to me looked over and saw me blasting “Hakuna Matata” and clapping sixteenth notes and likely thought, “That man has lost his way.” And this would be a false assessment. I didn’t lose my way. I’m finding it. Because when the rubber meets the road (or the pacifier meets the pavement), you do what you do to get by. It wasn’t a huge meltdown that Ellison was having, but I’m in traffic, she’s getting fussy and the usual tricks weren’t working. There’s a point where you abandon the superficial make-up of a father and you get down to the nitty gritty. You break character to push through and make it work. You break out the daddy duct tape and whoop that ass (my apologies to my mother for that last comment).

We gotta walker in the Wyrick household. More on that next time.

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