A weeklong electronic journal.
Oct. 29 1998 3:30 AM


       While I'm writing today's entry--it's now 8:15 a.m., and I have to file this by 10 a.m.--Paul will celebrate his one week birthday. Yo! Paul--way to hang in there, baby dude! Though Caroline and I have been able to fit six to eight hours of sleep around his nighttime feedings, last night didn't unfold as smoothly as others. The solution, which I didn't mind a bit, was for me to sleep with him nestled atop my chest. This experience has a texture--as has every other basic baby care transaction this past week--with which I'm quite familiar, having covered this ground with my sons Jeb, Reid, and Timothy.
       I have a vivid memory, from Jeb's infancy, of frantically bicycling down Fifth Avenue toward home, telling myself "I've got to hurry--he'll only be nine days old once!" (Vivid, in part, because a taxi suddenly cut me off and I very nearly wound up beneath its wheels.) Reid's and Timothy's infancy was, frankly, a different matter. As twins grow older, the companionship they offer each other alleviates a lot of parental responsibility, but the early going presents perils far beyond sleep deprivation. During their first couple of years, my mantra was "Every day is a victory." Weekends, when there was no baby sitter around, inspired another bromide: "Thank God it's Monday." The boys survived and thrived, but along the way our marriage came unwound. By the time the younger boys started kindergarten, unless my wife and I were talking about the children we no longer had much to say to each other that wasn't barbed with anger or resentment.
       My former wife lives a mile away, and we have a 50-50 joint custody arrangement. Weeks when the boys are at my house, I still wake up Reid and Timothy each morning by snuggling under the covers for a few minutes. But they're 12 years old and, well, the clock is running. (My physical encounters with Jeb long ago leveled off at the manly hug stage.)
       With Paul, I know, gratefully rather than wistfully, I've begun my final go-round. Even before he was born, I took to referring to him as my "bridge baby"--my last chance, until one of the older boys shows up with a grandchild, to deed to a child a particular piece of my heart.
       "Good judgment comes from experience," my long-dead Cousin Morris used to say. "Experience comes from bad judgment." And where, I wonder, does good fortune come from? In professional or interpersonal dealings, I don't much believe in "bad luck," which I tend to think of as a lazy excuse for negligence or bad faith. But how do I account for the bountiful evidence of my extraordinary good fortune? A tiny boy is curled up on my chest--Paul wanted out of his crib while I was writing, so I'm multi-tasking as I scribble these final paragraphs--and sleeping next to me is his mother, a woman far too honest and forthright for me to fear that what matters most in my life will ever again come unwound.

Mark Singer is a staff writer for The New Yorker. His most recent book is Citizen K: The Deeply Weird Journey of Brett Kimberlin. He is the father of four sons, including Paul Mailhot-Singer, who was born Oct. 21, 1998 (7 lbs., 10 oz.).