"We're definitely two individuals, but we are together at the same time. We are -- one."
-- Ali, on Bono
U2 Lists: 5 Songs That Describe My First Years of Parenthood
November 20, 2015
[Ed. note: This is the 65th in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]
Two months ago, my wife, my son and I welcomed identical twin girls into our family. Needless to say, the past eight weeks have been a whirlwind. Balancing the normal ins and outs of a new school year with figuring out how to care for a toddler and an infant two infants has proven challenging, to say the least. I’ve had parenthood on my mind quite a bit lately, and since I almost always have U2 on my mind, I began to think about how I could relate the two. There seems to be a set of U2 songs for every occasion, and the first years of parenthood are no exception. Here is a list of five songs that describe what it was like during my first 2 1/2 years as a father.
5. “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)"
We all have a handful of memories or experiences that, in time, help define who we are and how we see the world. For Bono, nothing was the same after seeing the Ramones for the first time: “I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred.” Becoming a parent is definitely one of those landmark moments. Everything in my life was different after my son was born: the way I speak, how I manage my time, how I interact with family and friends. My relationship with my wife changed, too. Sadly, I often hear stories of marriages falling apart after kids enter the picture; fortunately for us, we got stronger. It’s awe-inspiring to see her care for our children and run our household. (We have a system, plan, or procedure for just about everything, from bottle washing/drying to loading the minivan for a family trip.) We communicate better now than before we had kids, and our finances are in the best shape they’ve ever been. Having kids was truly a miracle moment for me and my family.
(Another reason this song is on my list: It is one of my son’s favorite songs. He requests it in the car and wants me to sing it for his bedtime lullaby. Yes, it’s as wonderful and adorable as it sounds.)
4. “Stranger In A Strange Land”
Of the various “hats” I wear—husband, parent, teacher, U2 fan—the parent “hat” by far is the one that requires the most adjustments. And that’s because parenthood is a strange land indeed. It’s a place where, just when I think I have things figured out, something happens that throws everything out of whack. If I had a dime for each time I felt like I had no idea what to do next, I’d already have enough for my kids’ college tuition … at Ivy League institutions. But I have realized that this is just the way of things for parents, especially parents of infants and toddlers. Parenthood, especially early on, is an utterly bewildering and fascinating experience because each parent/child relationship brings with it its own unique set of circumstances. Parenthood may be a strange land, but it’s never boring!
3. “City Of Blinding Lights"
The more you see the less you know
The less you find out as you go
I knew much more then than I do now
Before I became a parent, I had in my mind’s eye an ideal picture of what I thought parenthood would be like. I wasn’t so naive as to think there wouldn’t be struggles, but I did severely underestimate just how much effort goes into being an involved parent. Whatever expectations I had going into parenthood—positive and negative alike—were completely shattered once my son arrived. Parenthood is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever undertaken, but it’s also the most rewarding. It’s not unlike going to a big city for the first time and seeing all the sights and hearing the cacophony of sounds. It can be overwhelming, but there is no doubt that it is magical. And like visiting a big city, parenthood has its share of surprises around every corner, some I was ready for and some that completely threw me for a loop.
2. “Some Days Are Better Than Others"
Some days are honest, most days are not
Some days you’re thankful for what you’ve got
Some days you wake up in the army
And some days it’s the enemy
Some parents describe their parental journey in nothing but glowing terms. And while that may be true for a very small slice of the population, my experience hasn’t been all sunshine and smooth sailing. In fact, my first year as a father was dark and turbulent. The biggest shock for me was the duration and sheer intensity of my parental duties. It was one thing to hear about sleepless nights with a fussy baby, but it was another thing entirely to actually go through it. My experience has taught me that tough days and nights will happen (what servers call being in “the weeds": the baby (or babies, as the case may be) won’t stop crying, there’s an article to write, a lesson to plan, a meeting to attend, a website to update, bottles to wash, laundry to fold, a dog to walk, groceries to buy. All the while, the baby (or babies, as is now the case) won’t stop crying and the toddler is feeling extra-clingy. The good news, however, is that not every day is so daunting. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that, in the long run, good days far outnumber the bad.
This was the first track from No Line On The Horizon that really connected with me. It sounded the most characteristically “U2” to my ears. I was particularly drawn to the build-up in the very beginning that leads up to the intro proper. The character of the song is unclear for the first 30 seconds; it’s not until 45 seconds in that the song really gets going. Bono’s first word, “Magnificent,” seems to come out of nowhere and imparts a jubilant quality to the song that steadily crescendos until the climax in the last chorus, when he sings “Only love unites our hearts.” The way the song gradually reveals its character from just a guitar and drum to a soaring anthem is not unlike how my two years or so of parenthood progressed. It started out not resembling anything familiar, as sleep deprivation blended days and nights into a bleary-eyed blur. Slowly but surely, however, as the baby passed each milestone, the daily grind got easier to manage. He started sleeping through the night (arguably the greatest milestone in the first year). Then he started crawling, which led to walking. Shortly after that, the talking started. Then one day, he blurted out an unprompted “I love you, Daddy.”
(Honorable Mentions: “Original Of The Species,” “Iris (Hold Me Close),” “Out Of Control,” “MLK” and “I Will Follow”)
(c) @U2/Endrinal, 2015