W, the two-year-old, was effusive in his review of Raffi’s #belugagrads concert at the Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver over the weekend. Loosely translated, he reported that the show was “a deft combination of Springsteen’s energy, Sinatra’s rapport, and late '80s Guns & Roses ass-kicking.”
Being his first theatre concert experience, I think I can see where he is coming from.
Aside from the bananaphone pyrotechnics, there was a more subtle occurrence at the sold-out show that I have not been able to shake.
A father, mother, and young daughter sat to our left. The girl was 3 or 4 years old and a bit intimidated by the scene and the noise of the theatre and clung to her mother even while singing along to the songs she knew. Her father would glance to his family at times and would lightly mouth the words as well. The crowd was active. Not Live At The Apollo active but active in the ‘walking the aisles with fired-up toddlers’ kind of active. There were many middle-of-the-song dashes for the washroom. About three quarters of the way through the show, that extra juice in the car kicked in for the girl and she and her mother had to squeeze past the crowded row and rush to the facilities.
The young father’s family left for the washroom at the worst possible time. In their absence, the pinnacle of the Raffi songbook was unleashed. Raffi started to sing Baby Beluga. The father was alone.
He sat leaning slightly forward, his hands on his lap.Three empty seats away, I looked at him piteously, unable to help.
He sat there content. He was alone, perfectly lodged between his past and his future. And he was singing.
He was singing Baby Beluga with a full voice. He wasn't singing for his daughter although she was the reason he was there. He was singing because that song was locked inside him. He was a little boy again.
His calm smile and his voice blended into the grand sound of a theatre of children and their parents all singing together with a voice and a song that bound us all.
I made a reasonable shift from bachelor to husband. Yes, there were fewer hockey pucks around and the house smelled slightly less of leather and steel but, overall, I didn’t feel fundamentally different.
I had heard that fatherhood changes you and I was told that the first hint of this shift would occur with the complete obliteration of a sleeping pattern. I suppose this is would normally be true but the hours we kept for the first few months after W’s arrival were not that different from being devoted to flyfishing and guiding. I would find very little sleep in between tides and was at the whim of grumpy clients with unreasonable requests at all hours of the morning and were wont to fall asleep at the peak times of the day smelling vaguely of vomit. So, really, not that different.
I expected the ridiculous hours and while it was not easy, this did not completely bring me into the fold of fatherhood. In the past couple of years I have kissed my son’s knee when it received a scratch from the pavement. I have slept on the floor beside his crib to assuage his fears of sleep taking him over and I have cleaned up a backseat shellacked with puke while wearing a fine Italian suit. These all felt very fatherly at the time but I had not truly transitioned.
I recently received a text:
I am heading to the lake to hunt next weekend. Need my deer for the year. You in?
Nope. I’m taking W to see Raffi.
I can’t go hunting because I’m going to sing Baby Beluga, in public, with my 2-year-old. And I'm quite sure it’s going to be awesome.
My transition to Dad is complete. I feel different.