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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Faith

Emily says "I have faith that we can do it. I think I understand faith a little bit better now."

How do you explain how radically life changes when you become a parent without making it sound like a cautionary tale? Without confirming all of the worries your childless friends have about parenthood?

Weekends in Napa, time spent in smokey bars making contributions to the atmosphere, spontaneous date nights, entire days spent out of the house together, flights longer than two hours, road trips, putting off grocery shopping for one, two, or five more days while the supply of frozen french fries dwindles and the size of that orange cheese block shrinks.

Waking up every morning three or four hours earlier than ever before, and even that much sleep is a luxury compared to the constant interruptions of the first few months. Piles of diapers. Worrying about nuts. Buying kegs of milk. Knowing that the intro/theme to Sesame Street has changed. Hitting all the "Kids eat free" restaurants. Planning days around naps, weekends around cribs, and weeks around daycare.

Those changes loom. They impend. They are an exchange of radical freedom for shackled duty. They are the reason for the doubt. "Can we do this? How can we do this? How can anyone do this?"

I would look to the future from our moment and I was incapable of seeing the long staircase or the magic switch that would make those changes something other than soul-crushing. But I'd say things like "ah, we'll figure it out."

But it always sounded like a lie. It sounded like a lie because I had heard something in a similar tone, in a fake Irish accent, years before: "Aw, kids are easy. You just put them in your pocket." That was the line Dana Carvey jokes his Irish mother, a parental conspirator, would feed him. It's such an obvious lie, but backed by so much convincing confidence, that you can be lulled by it.

Can I just put them in my pocket? Everyone seems capable of making this change; why do I doubt myself so much?

Because the change is drastic. It is the most drastic. Imagine being told that tomorrow you need to be able to run 100 meters in ten seconds. Imagine being told you need to figure out how to flap your arms and fly. And that the consequences of not being able to do so will not only be terrible for you, but terrible for a stranger you have a a sudden duty toward.

Somehow we figured it out. Somehow the change was only drastic in retrospect. Somehow Erin turned out to be easy; I just put her in my pocket. It feels like I've always known how to do this. And I smugly assure my childless friends that kids are easy, that their doubts and worries are, not baseless, but irrelevant. Because they won't care.

That's what's happened. The world we knew before, the one with the things like lazy Sunday naps and lazy Wednesday naps and hip Saturday scenes (there were fewer of these than I'd prefer to admit) was stunningly, horrifically incinerated. And I fiddled and danced while it burned. Because I didn't care. I don't care.

The world of my twenties wasn't bad, or sad, or innocent, or deplorable. It just was. There is no loss, there is just was. It was and now it isn't. The future stretches out, uncertain, terrifyingly uncertain. And I don't care.

Except that I do care. I have another child on the way. Another! And although I feel easy enough about being a father I have those same panicked doubts about being a father to two, to a son. How can people do this? What is the magic switch that will be thrown to make it seem normal? We've been good at parenting in our infancy, when we were overwhelmed by the wonder of it all. But it's inconceivable that we can be good at it in our adolescence, when we are selfishly enamoured with our own interests and brook no interference with our agenda. How will our son not bear the brunt of those growing pains?

But, myself tells my self, kids are easy. You just put them in your pocket. And although I rightly doubt the truthfulness of this, it is backed by so much convincing confidence that I am lulled by it. I don't know what the magic switch looks like, I just know what the nursery looks like when the light is on.

35 comments:

VDog said...

You're gonna love having a boy. ;)

Heather said...

About a week (or less time) after #2 arrives you can't remember life without him.

Natalie said...

boys...there's nothing like them. i was scared to death to have one after having a girl, and now i wonder why. mine are so much easier than my girls!

Mandy said...

My biggest worry with #2 was not loving him as much as I did the first. Whatever the worries about parenting a second child, we all have one, or some.

You and your wife will do well. It is, by all accounts, a wild ride. And that ride is completely different and surprisingly the same for us all.

Carrie said...

The second one is easy, you already ironed out the wrinkles on the first one. Now you just need another backpack...

anymommy said...

Once he's here, you won't have time for all this reflection ;-) You'll be great, he'll be fine, you'll make some mistakes, maybe be a little less gaga and patient, but a little calmer and wiser. At least, that's what I tell myself headed for my fourth, what's one more? How badly can I screw it up?

ALI said...

I have boys-boys rock, they are rough-hey hug rough, they kiss rough, they play rough, they only sit down when they don't have a choice.
The thing I know about two-your standards change, you love your second as much as your first-but it doesn't matter if the socks match as long as the feet are warm, stuff like that.

Kimberly said...

Awwww...you're going to be a great Dad to your son. No worries - you've got plenty of pockets :)

Emily Moore said...

Having a boy after a girl is so fun--things really are different, yet strangely familiar and not so terrifying.

And Heather is right, you won't remember life without him.

Ali said...

here's an interesting ali-tidbit. i'm a HUGE worrier about EVERYTHING (am prone to panic attacks) but about having kids? i didn't panic at all! i just jumped in with two feet at 22 (ZOMG! i was a baby!) and never looked back. you just build yourself a new life. a different life. a better life. (even though there's less freedom and more responsibility)

;)

Jill said...

As you said yourself, you just do it. Two kids is harder than one. In ways I never imagined, and your kids will bear the brunt, yes, but so do everyone's. It's why God invented therapists.

p.s. What's up with the new Sesame Street theme? Me no likey!!

Miss Britt said...

You just... figure it out.

Danielle said...

"You just put them in your pocket."

I love that. It's true. You just figure it out.

And when you put all of the changes out there to those friends who don't have chidren, it sounds awful... but it's true that you just don't care. Because even when things sort of suck, the suckage is better when you have those little creatures with you...

And it just works itself out.

Kyddryn said...

My personal motto: I'll muddle through somehow...

We do.

Boys get a bad rap - yes, they're energetic, sometimes violent, often noisy, filthy, and relentless...but then, girls can be, too.

You'll muddle through somehow.

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

growingapair said...

I wish I could tell you differently, but #2 knocked me on my ass in ways that #1 never did. It wasn't #2 per se, but the fact that #1 was still around-- and not even 2-- with his needs and his tears and his everything. The first six months are hard.

But like everything, you develop a new normal. And now having two seems so easy. Easy to be at home-- they play with each other and keep each other company. Easy to be out-- they keep each other calm.

Apparently we've gotten cocky-- we're adding a third child in six weeks. (Gulp. Pray for us.)

Anonymous said...

S -thanks for freaking at the same time I am freaking! I have a 17mo old girl and we are adding a baby boy in May. So nice to know that now I can read your experience at the same time I'm going through my own.

I am much happier reading that everything becomes normal again. Comemnts saying that I will be knocked on my ass just make me feel worse :-) I think I will stop reading the comments now. It will be what it will be I suppose.

Miss Grace said...

All you can do is your best. That's all anyone can do, and most of us get by well enough.

wherewiller said...

This is great. You've put into words so well what I often manage to not communicate properly. As in, it usually comes out as - people, don't have kids, stay selfish! But what you said, that's what I mean, really.

loudange said...

Its funny you have this post...I've been wondering when that switch to become and adult will happen...because I don't think its happened yet and I think at my age it should have...one day I'll wake up and be like, oh I'm 80, time to grow up! I think you just do what you gotta do, have a kid, know how to feed and clothe and love, and that's how you do it.

for a different kind of girl said...

All the good stuff has already been said, so I'll just reiterate that you just do it, and you find it's far easier than you ever thought it could be, and the stress you worried about and the concerns you had? They pop up from time to time, but you've already got a huge learning curve, and the newest one? They just take it all in and do their thing. It's seriously great.

Oh, The Joys said...

The heart is astonishingly strong.

Momo Fali said...

I have two kids. You SHOULD panic.

Megan Langford said...

Thanks for writing this. Your timing was perfect. My husband and I are trying to conceive our first, and recently I've started panicking, wondering if we're ready for this, and how we'll handle all the changes. It's reassuring to hear that you just do it, and it all works out.

Jo said...

Congratulations :-D

mumma boo said...

You just do it. The great thing is that baby boy will have three people to dote on him. The other great thing is that neither he nor Erin will know or care that they might be missing something. You have love aplenty, and that, along with a clean bottom, a full belly, and a comfy place to nap, is all they need. Good luck! Catch up on your sleep now. :-)

Dto3 said...

Dude, I'd like to tell you it gets easier, but in reality it is exponentially more difficult. 2 completely takes away any social life you thought you had. If you are crazy enough to have a third, just give it up. Of course, then there's the chick in California that just popped out 8 at one time when she already had 6. Clearly insane - no other explanation. Congrats! Kids, in all numbers, are a blast!

Leslie M-B (trillwing) said...

As much as I miss the spontaneity of life pre-motherhood, I can't imagine life now without my son.

That said, you're braver than we are. We're pretty sure we're stopping with one because we can't conceive of the amount of energy two would take.

anita ovolina said...

You worry but then you look back and you did ok (or at least well enough that the kids made it through).
I know it's a bit different but when my husband leaves for a deployment and I'm alone with my five daughters I wonder if I can do it. I've done it but I still fear I won't be able to do it.
Probably not a great example because with kids there is so much love, with deployments not so much, but I don't know your post reminded me of this fear - so there it was.
:)

Astrogirl426 said...

I can't speak to what it's like to have 2 kids - we're stopping at one. But I can speak to what it's like to have a boy.

As a male of the species, you can, I'm sure, attest to this: Boys are wonderfully simple creatures. As long as you let them run around to their heart's content, make noise, get dirty, and risk life and limb on a daily basis. Sure, there are those rare boys who are actually more (emotional) work than girls, but on average, boys are less emotional work.

And for your wife, you can tell her that while it's true that girls do love their moms, of course; boys looooove their mamas. They put them on a pedestal and never take them down. It's a refreshingly simply relationship :)

heather... said...

We are sort of kind of maybe talking about possibly thinking of adding another baby...and we say all these things to each other. I can't imagine how we'd do it...but I know we CAN. And you can, too.

Danielle-lee said...

Congrats! You will do wonderful, I am sure!
Yes, it is so hard to explain being a parent to those that are childless. They look at you like you have two heads.

Danielle-lee said...

Congrats! You will do wonderful, I am sure!
Yes, it is so hard to explain being a parent to those that are childless. They look at you like you have two heads.

The Scholastic Decoder said...

I can't figure out if I missed this or forgot - but congrats!

Erin W. said...

I'm 33 weeks pregnant with my second child. It's funny, but I'm feeling a lot of what you so eloquently wrote here all over again. I've got so many doubts, and I KNOW that they're all irrelevant. But they're still there.
There are new doubts too, new worries. My daughter has been SO EASY and we've been very lucky in that. She's 4 years old and super independent. I can take a nap while she's watching a movie and not worry about the house burning down or having to patch up any boo-boos when I wake up. That? That is about to get ripped away from me. I'm going to have an infant in a couple months who is going to be 100% dependent upon me.
I know that things will be alright and I'll look back on this time of fretting and worrying and laugh - but in the meantime all the reassuring I get from parents of more than one kid just feels like I'm being patronized.
Whoops! I went on a rant. Anyway - I guess I just wanted to say that I'm glad I'm not the only one out there who is worrying about this stuff and remembering the time before the first.

Mike said...

Shawn I read your posts and think I am reading something that was taken right out of "Reader's Digest" or "Family Circle", you rock!

That said, my mom and my mother-in-law both raised 5 babies, cooked and cleaned and usually had jobs of their own too. We survived, us kids, and with one kid I wonder how my wife and I could ever do two, or three?

Congratulations!

Our boy is so much fun,

@azmike