1, 2001 - Sunday
With Harry's sibling on the way, I've been thinking a lot lately about being a parent and mentally exploring why we're doing it again. Harry's great, of course, but things are certainly different now. Our lives are fuller, that's for sure, but with many different priorities than before, for both better and worse. As stated, it was certainly no slam dunk decision to have a second child. We'd be asking for a lot more work, and a lot more stress. But, we're still doing it.
I happened to read Ann Landers the other day. I always consciously avoid that diatribe because the advice is so superficial and aggravating, but this time the header caught my eye. The letter was from a first-time expectant mother asking why all her friends were saying things like "your lives will never be the same," "free time will be a thing of the past," "your marriage will be strained," "forget about intimacy for the next five years," and other common pearls of wisdom. The reputed expert advised to ignore the bad comments and focus on the positive and to find people with strong marriages.
I'm not sure whether Ann Landers has had children, but putting your head in the sand is rarely good advice if you ask me. The truth is that all those adages will almost certainly happen to some degree or another and to expect they won't is simply naive. The question, it seems to me, is how do you manage the changes that do come. How do you thrive with this giant life upheaval? How do you enjoy the baby, while giving due to of your previous life? How does a marriage survive an inevitable change of focus?
Sometimes it seems having babies is nature's ultimate April Fool's joke. We're programmed to procreate regardless of the turmoil and then say we love it. But, really it's about managing change and enjoying turmoil, if you will. Like just about everything, having a baby has good points and negatives. It's just that everything is so much more intense with a baby: goods are great, stress is severe, joyousness is elating, and clear left-brained thinking is often compromised by distraction, fatigue, and a whole new personal equilibrium, or lack of one, as the case may be.
A baby in the womb supposedly takes whatever it needs from the mother body to survive, even if the mother isn't eating right. If one's not careful, that can happen after the baby is born, too. It's hard on free time, it's hard on careers, it's hard on relationships because former centers of attention are supplanted, replaced, avoided, and ignored if you're not careful. The advice to the poor future mother should have been to expect change, take care of it, and enjoy the baby.
The good parts about having a baby can be very good, even if they sound silly to someone without one. Learning a word, or to walk, are not terribly exciting if you've done them before yourself. But, as a parent, those things become the thrilling culmination of a slow evolution of learning, and the freshness is invigorating. Harry's really not much different than most other babies in the grand scheme of things. But, he is part of us as well as his own person. Whenever he learns, we do too.
In these pictures on the left, Harry is playing peek-a-boo. It's a game we've played with him most of his life and one he's recently started calling "boo." Sure, it's cute to see a little mind get so excited about hiding then emerging, but it's not so exciting for most adults. For Harry, like all kids, it's a big laugh. What's so special about these pictures is that for the first time in his fifteen and a half months of life, Harry was the one who went and hid - behind an apron hanging from the refrigerator - and he was the one who built the tension, only to whip the apron away from his little face. And, for the first time in his fifteen and a half months of life, he was the one to say "BOO."
His mother and I just sat there side by side on the floor watching and pretending to be surprised. It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.