We are raising our son in a Manhattan apartment. We are not millionaires and our grandparents did not bequeath us a quirky West Village apartment large enough to shoot a sitcom in, so our place is small. I was going to sketch out a quick diagram for this post, but I thought of something more effective. If you’re reading this in a location other than NYC, look at the room around you. Doesn’t matter how big or small it is, it’s close enough. OK, that room is where you live. Everything you own is in it and it’s where you sleep and make food and bathe and entertain yourself. That’s our apartment. And it’s actually big for the neighborhood. Now throw a baby in there too. Cool, you understand.*
Even before we had Del, living here had its challenges. Imagine your living space, but everything is just a few inches tighter than you’d like it to be. There are two less flat surfaces in your kitchen than you’d like. Every time you have to use something, you have to move something else to get to it. Make a Jenga tower of all your kitchen utensils, for example. Sometimes you wake up and wonder if someone is pranking you by moving all your furniture closer together overnight. I’m not clumsy, but I constantly savage my ankles on the corners of furniture. I bang my elbow in the shower three times a week and I’ve been using it for six years. I’m slim but I’m just slightly too big to walk straight through the bathroom door.
We knew more or less what we were getting into. Some of the specifics were unpredictable though. I never really imagined creeping through my own apartment at 11 AM, shades drawn, white noise machine blaring, as my son naps in his swing in the living room. I’ve learned the location of every creaky board. I save noisy household tasks for when he’s awake. My lunch for a couple years has been a smoothie made in a blender that sounds like a lawnmower, so I have to plan ahead. I’ll go into the bathroom and close the door so I can open a bag of spinach. I’ve silently screamed at our cat when he comes within two feet of the swing. He gets the picture. I’m seriously considering learning sign language with my wife. I’m sitting here in the dark writing this while she and Del sleep about 20 feet away.
The upshot is I never experience the anxiety of my infant son being out of my sight. I’m closely attuned to his waking-up signals and when he was only days and weeks old, we could relax enough to get something resembling sleep because unless we put him in the shower, we can see him. We have no use for a baby monitor. Our location is a walk of a few minutes from the Hudson River and Central Park, either of which we see on a daily basis. We are surrounded by playgrounds.
We recently visited Amy’s family in Texas and stayed with her brother and sister-in-law. They have (wait for it) TWO STORIES to their house, and the bedrooms are all upstairs. The first time Del needed a nap, we took him up to our room and settled him into the little rocking bassinet they had ready for us. He dozed off and we looked at each other for a moment then had a whispered conversation:
“So, what, we just…leave him?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Then what do we do?”
“I think we do whatever we want.”
A tear rolled down my cheek. We went downstairs and had a full-voiced conversation about Moana with our niece. Del slept like a rock. It was glorious.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.
*Real talk: I’m exaggerating for comedic effect. I’m aware that we are very, very lucky to have our current setup. Seriously, so fortunate: The Coffin Homes of Hong Kong