For me the most mind-bending thing about having a child is that everything I do has a witness. Nothing too small. Nothing lost.
It's taken me awhile to get used to living on a boat. In fact, though I suggested the idea in the first place, I promptly began to resist it. The basic stuff. Like how to tie knots. Adjust the sails. That sort of thing. I'm not sure why I had such a bad attitude. Actually, I am sure. It had to do with the fact that I'd walked straight out of my world, the familiar, well-loved confines of academia, into Adam's.
We have a nice rowing dinghy here in the Caribbean. And Adam's attempts to teach me how to row—I mean, properly—soon met with snarling and sulking. I never meant to act that way. But I did. And this is the result: In Tallulah's mind, I'm still trying to live down the time a couple of friendly cruisers gave us a tow back to the boat.
OK, that happened more than once.
So even though I looked down on a recent afternoon and realized that my biceps had reached an alarming size; and getting back from shore in 25 knots didn't faze me anymore; and I'd rowed the two of them plus 400 pounds of anchor chain a mile back to the boat in one-foot swells and a stiff breeze, as Tallulah and I would get in the dinghy and I'd take hold of the oars, I kept hearing, “We need somebody to tow us.” Or, “I wish daddy was here.”
After awhile it occurred to me that it was no use getting offended. Wasn't that the voice of my deepest subconscious?
“Daddy always knows what to do in the boat, doesn't he?, I said finally.
“He always seems so sure, doesn't he? And you know you're safe.”
“But mom is learning,” I said.
What I really learned is that I can't fake anything. I have to believe, to embody, to love it. For I have a witness who sees only the truth. And whatever impression I make now—well, it's going to last the rest of my life.