That's my boy: a dad's diary from 5 to 8 months

Read the first four months of Bruce's story here. 

Five to six months

I arrive home and find him lying on the queen-size bed playing with his mother. My boy sees me, squeals, and kicks his legs like mad. Then he reaches out for me to take him, greeting me with a grunting, hooting sound. And I'm on my way to him.

A compliment, followed by a direct proposition. The primal pick-up line, already down pat.

On my train through the suburbs, on my way back to my wife and my boy, I plot my evening's B-list - all the stuff I'd like to do once I'm done doing all the stuff I have to do.

I'll email my friend in Singapore, burn that square-dance CD for Dad, phone up two mates to wish them a mid-January happy new year. Most nights I bat less than zero - no like-tos with still a bunch of have-tos left for tomorrow.

Then, as I doze off to the 11 o'clock news, I begin to understand the meaning of the term: "There aren't enough hours in the day".

Good. If there were enough, I'd probably die. As it is, I merely fall asleep.

The first time my boy stopped the room, he was five months old. Friends were over for a Sunday evening barbecue. One of them, Matt, is asthmatic. Something in the pickles set him off. His airways suddenly thickened. He snatched for his Ventolin, but his coughs continued heavy and hard. The three grown-ups watched with growing anxiety; my boy sat, top heavy, on my knee.


My friend coughed and coughed. Then everyone but Matt looked towards me, and I looked down at my boy. He had his wide eyes fixed on Matt, and he was laughing his gums out. Matt coughed again, and my boy laughed and laughed, loud and hearty, big and gummy. A man having an asthma attack was, literally and absolutely, the funniest thing he had seen in his life.

I wake at six and turn on the radio soft, careful not to break my wife's precious, precarious sleep. ABC feeds of overseas networks report terrorist strikes, famines, the prospects and outcomes of war. I listen to this stuff for peace of mind. Otherwise, I'll just lie there and worry.

In the half-dark at seven, I collect pants, shoes, undies, belt and tie before showering, clearing the dishwasher, and loading the washing machine. After downing my cereal, I leave a bowl of dry grains and a jug of milk beside my wife's bed.

Sometime after I've gone, my wife will wake, change my boy's nappy and feed him. Sometime after I've gone, he'll look up and those pink gums will go to her heart. Some other time, some other way: the joy of it will come again.

I return at dusk, take my boy in my arms and pace the kitchen with him pressed warm against my shoulder, his spit seeping through my shirt and onto my skin. Food and bath and tears before bedtime. And each of us will feel this hot, high emotion before our boy closes his eyes, and we close his door.

My wife sleeps first. I follow before 11, turning on the radio, soft as fog: real disasters to keep imagined ones at bay.Today, like every day, our boy has given us joy. Today, like too, too many days - joy-wise, that's been about it.

Six to seven months 

They retain this bald patch on the back of their heads. You lay them on their backs to sleep nowadays - in the pram and on the floor rug beneath the dangling toys. And the hair never gets to grow there, in a little circle, like he's some kind of mini-monk.

My boy learned to smile at us at two months. Smiling up at us, always up, as our faces descended from the sky. First smiling, then kicking and squirming, then reaching out with clenching hands. Up towards us, our faces full in his eyes.

My boy is about to crawl. On his belly, he can now arch his back to raise his chest right off the rug. His legs are strong enough. He is almost ready.

This is the way he's happiest now - on his belly, hips and elbows, sliding around, reaching out for soft toys and things that sparkle or go beep. On his belly, he faces the world now, looking up for us over his shoulder.

My boy is developing secret powers. I'm typing something at the kitchen table, and turn to find him facing north on the floor, instead of south as I'd left him. He sleeps on his back yet, when I go to fetch him at 6am, he is lying on his stomach.

After compiling his gooey breakfast, I hear his cry soft and muffled, and look to find him half buried beneath clothes just brought in from the line. After breakfast he throws up - not cereal, not dinner, but yesterday's lunch.

Secret squirming powers; secret rolling powers; secret grabbing powers; secret spewing powers. And, who knows, some day - secret put-away-his-toys powers.

Seven to eight months 

"Look!" my wife said. "It's disgusting!" And it was. At the peak of my boy's baby-mullet, I saw his hair pulsing with the blood-beat of his brain that lay beneath a thin layer of skin.

He was five months old then, with the soft spot in his skull bigger than a 20-cent piece.

Today, it's deflated to 10 cents at most. Today my baby traces a circle on the floor with his arms and legs, pivoting on his belly like some crazy clock. He grabs at his rug, scrunching it up, then with spread fingers pats the kitchen floor, surrounded by toys, rugs, bibs, chairs dangling wet washing, cupboards clipped shut, sinks piled full and cups of coffee gone cold. Our lives may be shattered, our bank balance blown to bits, but our boy's showing signs of developing a whole head.

I already miss the way he was. So small. I remember holding him for two hours straight. No way I could do that now - he's so big.

I'm still waiting for the first time my boy calls me Dad, for the first time my boy takes a step unassisted, for his first white tooth to poke through those pretty pink gums. On the other hand, he is yet to break a bone, run a fever, graze a knee or take a gash out of his mother's nipple. Every milestone is a millstone. Every millstone a gemstone. And all the world's a stage.

When my son turns 10, I'll be 51. When he's 18 ... I can't bear to think about it.

I want to be big, strong Dad, not flaky-skinned, spotty-handed, bifocaled Dad. What if the first time we play soccer, I do my knee in? What if I suggest we play touch rather than tackle for my benefit, not his? I'll say, "Son, croquet is the game of love, bowls the true test of the champion." The body board will be my version of extreme sport.

Coming home from the park, my boy will be ringing the doorbell while I'm still hyperventilating up the shallow incline of our driveway. My boy, my boy. Be gentle.

This diary is dedicated to my wife (my boy gets quite enough already).

This article first appeared in the Good Weekend.