"I am a singer and a songwriter but I am also a father, four times over. I am a friend to dogs. I am a sworn enemy of the saccharine; and a believer in grace over karma. I talk too much when I'm drunk and sometimes even when I'm not."
-- Bono, 2001 Harvard graduation speech
Like A Song: Invisible
August 15, 2014
[Ed. note: This is the 86th in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]
As the U2 rumor mill starts yet another cycle (please, please, please let this be it), I remain cautiously optimistic. I’m wary because Bono’s been talking about a new record for years now, but I’m hopeful because I like the music the band has produced lately and hope they continue in that direction. “Invisible,” in particular, has become a new favorite. Even though it’s been more than six months since it was released, I haven’t stopped playing it. I think the video is great, too. In addition to the striking black-and-white theme, I especially like Adam’s “updo,” Bono’s mirror aviators, the flashlights, and the spark silhouette visuals behind the band. The circular illuminated microphone from the 360 tour was another nice touch, especially against the dark background.
And I’m not the only one in my family who can’t get enough of “Invisible.” My 18-month-old son loves watching it, too. It has become one of his go-to calming videos, as you can see here. His immediate reaction to the video got me thinking about the lyrics and how they relate to my newest and most arduous adventure yet: parenthood.
It’s like the room just cleared of smoke
I didn’t even want the heart you broke
It’s yours to keep you just might need one
By the time “Invisible” was launched on Super Bowl Sunday, the whirlwind of my first year as a parent was beginning to taper. My (successful) job hunt was (thankfully) over and I was starting to come into my own as a father. This summer was the first opportunity I’ve had to legitimately wind down in years. I was angry and bitter for a long time about how my career was going, but I finally managed to put those demons to rest. Of course, landing a job certainly helped with that, but it was spending a lot of quality time with my son this summer that helped me find the closure I needed.
I finally found my real name
I won’t be me when you see me again
No, I won’t be my father’s son
A few years ago, my father told me that no matter how old I was, as long as he was alive, it was his responsibility to take care of me. I was touched by what he said but had trouble fully comprehending why he felt responsible for a 30-year-old man who hadn’t lived with him for 12 years. Having a child of my own has enlightened me a bit.
Intellectually, it was easy for me to grasp the concept that having a baby changes EVERYTHING. But theory and practice are often very different things. Actually witnessing my life being turned upside down was more jarring than I had anticipated. As tough as sleepless nights and endless diaper changes were, I was caught off-guard the most by the psychological changes that accompanied my new role as a father, specifically how my own identity -- and place within my own family -- had changed. I’m no longer just a leaf on my family tree; my own branch is starting to grow. I am the head of my own family now, and I feel responsible for their well-being. I’m starting to get it now, Dad.
All those frozen days
And your frozen ways
They melt away your face like snow
It is not an overstatement to say that the first six months of my son’s life were the most difficult six months of my life. I was not fully prepared (Is anyone really?) for what parenthood was heaping onto my already full plate. It got so bad that I began to wonder if life was always going to be this hard. Was my son going to be a nightmare child? Was I cut out to be a father? We eventually found out that he had a severe dairy allergy, and he was cranky because he was hurting inside. My immediate reaction was, “Oh, my poor boy!” which was followed shortly thereafter by a sense of relief. There was a physical reason for my son’s temperament. More important, there was a solution.
Fortunately, things have greatly improved. He was primarily on a special formula until his 1st birthday in February and has been eating real solid foods like a champ ever since. This summer, in particular, has been amazing. I can say without hesitation that the last six weeks have been as good as the first six months were difficult. It’s been the best stretch of parenthood thus far. Truly, it is a joy to be with my son. Interacting with him full-time every day has allowed me to witness him mature seemingly on an hourly basis. His blossoming problem-solving skills continually amaze me while his rapid physical development is nothing short of stunning.
I’m more than you know
A body in a soul
You don’t see me but you will
I am not invisible
For me, fatherhood has been like a mirror: I see myself in my son, both the good and the bad. Not only am I more conscious of what I say and do, but also of how I say and do things. I am constantly reflecting on my own childhood experiences with my parents and making mental notes of what worked and what didn’t. My wife and I talk at length about how best to teach him morals and values while simultaneously allowing him to explore the world and develop his own personality. Happily, he’s trending up.
There’s only you
And there’s only me
As impressed as I have been with my son’s physical and personal development, I am most proud of the bond we’ve formed lately. Whether it’s hanging out in my office, reading a bedtime story, or just watching TV, I have thoroughly enjoyed his company this summer. And from what I can see, he is enjoying getting to know me, too. He gets upset when I leave the room and even reaches for me sometimes when he’s in my wife’s arms. That didn’t happen three months ago.
There is no them
There’s only us
I have to admit that I was anxious about our baby putting some distance between my wife and me, but that has not been the case. In fact, I think parenthood has brought us closer. She is an amazing mother and a wonderful wife. I wouldn’t have an “us” without her.
© @U2/Endrinal, 2014