The Daddy Shift

Excerpted from The Daddy Shift (Copyright © 2009 by Jeremy Adam Smith. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston.)

In 2004 my son Liko was born. Everything--the tree outside the window, the dreams I had at night--changed.

For the first year of his life, my wife Olli stayed home with Liko. Then she went back to work and I quit my job, joining the ranks of caregiving dads.

Now it was just the two of us boys, and it was scary. Liko, a confirmed breast addict, could not nap without his mother. When I would lay him down, he'd wail inconsolably, relentlessly, reaching out to me. But when I picked him up, he'd kick and arch his back, his little hands pushing against my chest. This would go on for hours.

I'd put him in the stroller and walk. He'd cry and fall asleep, but if I stopped--in a bookstore, a coffee shop--he'd wake and cry again, so I soon learned to keep moving through our San Francisco neighborhood, sticking to the side streets, going up the hills and down, up and down.

Time slowed, and with every minute I'd feel more and more isolated, more and more anxious. I wondered: "Is my life now no more than this?" I'd see people laughing in a picture window and want to be one of them.

In time, I learned to let that go, let myself get lost. On foggy days the hills of the city floated around us like deserted islands, the stroller a lonely raft. I'd study the cornices and gables on the Victorian facades, watch the tsunami of fog spill over Twin Peaks.

Later, Liko learned to fall asleep in my arms. I'd carry him through all the rooms in our apartment, stepping carefully around the bouncy seat, the swing, the baby gym, the high chair, the toy basket. I'd do this for hours.


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