It’s shortly after 8:00 pm, and my six-month-old, Nicholas, is inconsolable.
He’s been changed, fed and burped. He’s been read to in a soothing, upbeat tone in comedic contrast to his panicky, bloody-murder shrieks. He is up on my shoulder, snug in his sleep sack, wailing away as I gently pat his back.
My voice drops to a half-notch above a whisper as I nuzzle my mouth next to Nicholas’ ear.
“It’s all gonna be OK,” I promise, unconvincingly.
It will all be OK. This, like all moments big and small, shall pass. You’ll settle down, do your adorable little stretch-yawn, and sleep. And when you wake up, you’ll have the benefit, exclusive to infancy, of having remembered none of this trauma.
It will all be OK. Considering the desperate or downtrodden environments into which you could have been born, you lucked out. You have two married parents, each of whom has good jobs. You live on a quiet street in a safe neighborhood. We’re not wealthy, but you’ll want for nothing.
It will all be OK. You’ll grow up with the world literally at your fingertips. Ten years from now, on your iPhone 26 Plus, you’ll have omnipresent connectivity with family and friends, and instant access to an unlimited amount of useful information. And an unlimited amount of violent video games. And pornographic images, sensationalist media, and general moronitude.
It will all be OK. The average cost of a four-year private college is just shy of $130,000. Totally reasonable. And surely it won’t get much higher over the next 18 yea…
… It will all be OK. New Jersey has some exemplary state universities.
It’ll be fine. Terrorism, the heroin epidemic, global warming. Passing fads, all.
It will all be OK. Your eyesight won’t be 20/60 corrected, like you father’s is, courtesy of a rotted optic nerve. You won’t need to go through the abject horror of slowly losing your vision while a chorus line of doctors with increasingly intimidating titles performs increasingly scary tests. You’ll never be subjected to an electroretinogram from a neuro-ophthalmologist. Or three MRIs to rule out brain tumors. Or a spinal tap to rule out multiple sclerosis or worse.
And if you did inherit that defective gene, we’ll know it in your early childhood rather than early adulthood. You’ll be too young to be mortified.
It’s all gonna be OK. I think.
If you inherited another time-tested Dale family tradition – crippling depression and anxiety – we’ll also know that as early as possible. At least I hope so. You won’t have to wait until you’re in your 50s to muster the courage to board an airplane, like your great uncle. Or climb to the top of a building and seriously consider a permanent vacation, like your father. At least I hope not.
Things will work out just fine. Of course they will.
It will all be OK. You won’t become an alcoholic like far too many of your family members. And you especially won’t become a low-bottom, unemployed-and-unemployable addict like your father was barely five years ago. You won’t become a liar or a thief. You won’t take a loved one – wife or otherwise – hostage in your insanity. And when it finally comes to a head, when you sideswipe a taxi blind drunk, you won’t try to outrun the police. They don’t like that very much.
But if you do – if you find yourself hopeless, unable to imagine life with or without drugs or alcohol – there is recovery. There is direction, purpose, peace. There is love and forgiveness. If there wasn’t, your mother wouldn’t be in the next room, and we wouldn’t be having this little chat.
It will all be OK. You’re going to be tough and resilient, because your parents are more complete people for their struggles and scars. God willing, your road will be a bit easier than mine… but not too easy. Soft childhoods make soft adults, and the real world is hard. You will be safe and loved here, always. But you will also be challenged to achieve academically and grow personally.
In doing so, we’ll learn together what special talents you possess, and nurture them accordingly. Because that’s the surest path to a fulfilling, lifelong career instead of a series of dismal, dead-end jobs.
It will all be OK. You can’t possibly cry much longer. Or much louder.
It will all be OK. Because if and when we have this conversation again at two in the morning – and perhaps again at 5:00 – I will have been entirely exhausted for far, far less life-affirming reasons.
It will all be OK, because you, dear Nicholas, are so very worth making it OK.
Christopher Dale is a new father who, in addition to parenting-themed pieces, frequently writes on politics, society and sobriety issues. He has contributed to Salon and The Daily Beast, and is a regular contributor to The Fix, a sober lifestyle website.