Father’s Day was yesterday, I figured I’d make today’s story short and personal.


It is the first few months of my daughter’s life.

She is tiny and frail. I hold her against my bare chest, and place her head near my heart.

She pushes her face against my skin, and drools. I support her head. She is too small, too weak to hold it up on her own.

She cries. Long, loud wails, wails that wake the dead. She can’t keep her eyes open. Her muscles aren’t responding as they should.

She is afraid, and unsure. She thinks something bad is happening.

She cries louder.

“Shhhhhh,” I say. “Everything is fine my love. You’re just tired, you need sleep. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Don’t fight it. Let go and jump off into the rainbow waterfall waiting in your dreams.”

She hears my voice in her ears. She feels my chest vibrate with the sounds of my words.

Her crying dies down, and she slowly shuts her eyes.

Once she is asleep, I struggle to put her down.

My arms are tired, and my muscles strain against the awkward position they’re locked into.

I know once I put her down, the feeling of calm, of completeness she gives me will come to an end.

So I don’t put her down.

For a short while, we’re the same person. Her face pressed softly against my chest, she breathes slowly. Every few breaths there is a slight whistling sound. Her nose is so tiny.

I place my finger in her palm. She squeezes it tight in her sleep.

She moves her head slightly, and finds a more comfortable spot on my chest.

The exposed skin we once shared is sweaty, and cold.

An enchantment surrounds us. I never want it to end.

So I don’t let go. I hold on for an extra fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes. I am calm, and complete.

I am in a place where nothing exists except my daughter’s soft breath on my skin.

Eventually my muscles scream at me to put her down, and I begrudgingly listen.

I put her down gently, so gently. It will break my heart if she wakes up.

A feeling of satisfaction washes over me, and I smile at a job well-done.

It is followed by a habitual sadness, knowing the enchantment is about to break.

I can’t record the feeling with my phone. I can’t take a picture of it.

I can only hold the memory as close as I can.

Tomorrow I’ll rock her to sleep again. But there is no more rocking to be had tonight.

My daughter is older.

She is bigger, and smarter.

She is able to hold her head on her own, and eat, and express herself.

She doesn’t like going to bed, and will fight bedtime for as long as she can.

I build a ritual for her. An order of things, to prepare her for sleep.

Dinner, bath, pajamas, a song, and bed.

I complete the first three parts, then pick her up for the song.

She knows sleep is coming for her.

She cries.

I hold her against me, and rub her back soothingly.

Instead of placing her head on my chest, she rests her head on my shoulder, right next to my neck.

I lean my head towards hers, and feel her hair brush my ear.

It tickles. I smile. And softly, I begin to sing.

I sing the first song of the night.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels;
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles;
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

Sometimes, the sudden changes in rhythm that the chorus brings will wake her.

So I end it before the chorus.

She slowly relaxes, and sighs.

She repeatedly makes a long, slow “mmmmmm” sound.

It tells me she is falling asleep.

I sing her the second, final song of the night.

I wish you bluebirds in the spring
To give your heart a song to sing
And then a kiss, but more than this
I wish you love

And in July a lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade
I wish you health, and more than wealth,
I wish you love

My breaking heart and I agree
That you and I could never be
So, with my best, my very best
I set you free

I wish you shelter from the storm
A cozy fire to keep you warm
But most of all, when snowflakes fall
I wish you love

But most of all, when snowflakes fall
I wish you love

She is asleep.

And I don’t want to put her down.

As always, I struggle. I hold her close for an extra five, ten minutes.

She is heavier than before, and my arms can’t keep up.

With a sigh, I finally cave.

I slowly lower her into the crib.

I watch her breathe for a few moments.

I think of all the things I want for her.

How I want her to be whatever she wants to be, as long as she’s happy.

“And as long as she’s not a hockey player!” my girlfriend tells me. “She can be whatever she wants, and I’ll support her in whatever she wants, as long as it’s not hockey. There are too many practices, too much gear, and too much money involved. No hockey.”

I chuckle softly.

“I’ll take you to hockey practice if that’s what you want,” I whisper.

I kiss her on the forehead and leave the room.

My daughter is walking now. She communicates as well.

She speaks constant gibberish. She is confident, and happy, and smart.

She is now an old hand at sleep.

She knows it’s time for bed when I bring her up from her bath.

She no longer cries at bedtime.

She doesn’t need me to soothe her.

I dress her in pajamas, and move her to the crib.

I don’t bother singing to her.

If I try, she giggles and wriggles to escape from my grasp.

Or she props herself up against me with one arm, and uses her free hand to poke at my face.

Or she tries to put her finger in my eye. She succeeds once. It is painful.

I place her in the crib. She doesn’t struggle, or cry.

She gives me a knowing smile.

Then she rolls over onto her back, props her feet up against the side of the crib, and starts talking to herself.

She’s a big girl now.

I close the door with a sigh.

And I cry.

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