In books and movies, the protagonist usually enters an alternate reality with a journey or with a significant event, like, say Dante falling asleep in a dark wood before his descent into the Inferno.
My entrance into Daddyland was more gradual and subtle. I left work but it was Christmastime and everyone was going off and then we spent five weeks in the U.S., which is definitely not Daddyland. Then we came back, and those 24 hours of travel were epic in their transformation from sun to snow, from America to Sweden. But then E was home with us through the jet leg, and then she started studying, and that is just a class here and there at the beginning.
Then I went to work yesterday with Baby B to pick up a new mobile phone. And I knew. I was deep into Daddyland. Parental leave is so common here – everyone does it, and everyone knows you are coming back – but you are still gone and what is there to do but coo over the baby and get back to work? Heck, I don’t even coo over the baby when people venture into the work world with their new kids.
I think about this because my three-year-old daughter has developed a conception of time and life outside our Protestant, western conceptions of perpetual forward motion. Yes, she talks about what will happen when she gets bigger – drive a snowplow, drink coffee, go to the Olympics. But she also talks about what will happen when she gets smaller – she will keep her pacifier, she will wear diapers, she will eat unlimited amounts of baby food.
It is not limited to her either. Yesterday, she told me that when I get smaller tomorrow, I am going to hit her and then Tina at daycare will call me dumb. The other day she said that she would carry Grandpa in a sling when he gets smaller.
And since I am in Daddyland – and fighting to the end of The Magic Mountain, with pages and pages of discussion of time and space and if they exist and whether time and motion are the same thing and how does that all get measured by infinity anyway – I take this bigger and smaller thing seriously. I find myself in a much dreamier place, unbound from the inexorable move forward of the workday and the work week.
Of course, the world is spinning forward and with that comes time. Spring will come, and that is only forward, but spring does not come for a really really long time in wintry dark Sweden, another reason to get lost in the gray drifts of snow. The baby will walk and, maybe, sleep. And then summer will come and that is another time to get lost in Sweden, all that light that never fades, and we will all float through a long summer in the forest picking blueberries and swimming in the river.
And then Baby B will start daycare, I will go back to work, and time will march forward once again … assuming we do not wander off into the paths of Daddyland for just a little (or lot) longer, lost from time, getting both bigger and smaller (but never hitting my daughter either way!) …