Friday, May 29, 2009

TGIF!

            So tired.
            Thank God it’s Friday. I can’t imagine another workday tacked onto this one. Too much. Not that the weekend is going to give me much rest, what with a baby who wakes up at the same time no matter what day it is. But at least I can take naps and unwind. It’s been a full week.
            I think I’m going to help myself to a second cup of coffee and take a break. Think of things. Maybe buying a car top carrier for our August vacation. We were going to buy a van, until I started doing all the math and found out that we simply don’t need one enough to spend all that money. First, get out of debt. Then, save up for a house. After that I think we’ll be ready to buy a minivan. Gotta set priorities.
            Oh man, too tired to write. Too tired to focus. Ugh.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lack of Sleep

            Late nights and early mornings. Frankly, it wears down the system. However, I do have to say how my body seems to be adjusting. Before the baby I was used to seven or eight hours of sleep, now I’m getting by on six or less, and though I’m tired, I’m not as tired as I used to be.
            Last night was a particular challenge, because finally Michelle is letting the baby cry it out at night. She’s almost eight months, and plenty old enough if you ask me. So, at around 3am, the crying began. Michelle changed the diaper, then put the covers on her and didn’t let her get in bed with us. Celia pretty much wailed for forty minutes. Even with the earplugs in I couldn’t sleep. What a voice! I’m sure she’ll be a great singer someday, with lungs like that.
            When she beckoned me out of bed this morning, she was surprisingly happy. As if nothing had happened at 3am. All just a bad dream. And we had a very pleasant morning together. I went for a run with her at the park, and we played with the kitten. Delightful.
            Now, if only I can keep this up long term; lack of sleep but decent energy. I’m doubtful. It’s going to catch up to me, and once again I’ll be “Ephie El Groucho” grumbling and griping as I’ve never done before. Well, we’ll see. For now, I’m happy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Getting Out of the House

            Michelle woke up in the middle of the night with a start and looked over at the crib. There was Celia standing at the railing, looking back at her! And she’s not so short anymore, so she could easily have flipped over the edge if she’d been feeling adventurous.
            Needless to say, the next thing on our “baby” agenda was to lower the crib mattress down a couple notches. Now she can’t get over anymore, but all four top front teeth are coming in at once and she’s grouchy about all the pain. I feel so bad for her, because I can see she’s in pain, but what do you do? A little baby-Tylenol. A lot of love. Earplugs all night.
            Yes, I finally broke down and used earplugs right from the get-go, before I fell asleep. Actually, Michelle urged me to do it. She said she was getting tired of the baby waking up all the time, and wants to train her to sleep through the night (agreed!), but that she doesn’t want the baby to wake me up so she goes to her right away. That’s the problem. If we had a good child’s room nearby, instead of that front office so far from our bedroom, I think that would work beautifully, but as it is the crib is in the same room as our bed, and that’s the challenge.
            I’m not sure how it went with baby-wakings last night, but I did sleep better with those earplugs. I didn’t sleep enough, but I did sleep through the crying. I didn’t sleep enough because I was out with some friends jamming till 11pm, and I was the Party-Pooper, calling it quits the earliest. They all looked at me like I was a wimp, but I said, “Baby’s gonna wake me up at 5:30am. And I’ve gotta work.” They all nodded in an attempt at understanding, but deep down I know they have no idea what it’s like because they’re all single.
            The dynamic of going out with the guys was interesting at home. Over the last few weeks Michelle had been complaining and comparing her and my activities. It felt lopsided to her, that I was going out, playing soccer, doing music, etc, and she was always home. Finally, in exasperation, I said to her, “Look! Nobody’s keeping you home except yourself! I don’t appreciate this comparison stuff. If you want to go out, either leave the baby with me, or call on one of the dozens of people who’ve volunteered to watch the baby. You’re not the victim here.”
            She nodded and agreed with me. That was a few days ago, and even though she seems to have come around to taking some initiative to care for herself, I still felt a tinge of burden from her that I was going out last night. And I can understand why. I don’t do this often, but I barely saw the baby after work; I came home, then went off to play soccer, rushed home for a quick shower and cooked up dinner, then dashed out the door again without taking the time to eat with Michelle and went to jam with the guys in preparation for this Sunday.
            But Michelle will get her chance tonight. She’s planning on exercising while I run through some Latin tunes with a different friend and simultaneously watch the baby with my house-mate Priciliano. Michelle also has all sorts of social times during the day. Take today for example; she’s going to the park for a picnic with a few friends who also have babies. As I sit here and type inside on a beautiful day, I think to myself that she’s got it pretty good.
            As I said, comparison isn’t helpful. I am happy for her that she’s getting out. The best thing we can both do is encourage each other to pursue what makes us happy and healthy, and try to balance in time with each other and the family as a whole. I think we’re doing pretty well, overall. After talking out all those issues last week, it seems like most aspects of our marriage have been healthier. Well, it’s also helped by something that changed in me last Sunday.
            At church we’ve been given extra time during the service to sit and listen to God. Every time I’ve felt a little more direction and encouragement to show my love more obviously to Michelle and Celia; to show them I care, to tell them I love them, to truly deep down appreciate them. I can’t believe that I actually lose track of that – how much I appreciate them. I start getting into the nitty gritty of life and forget how blessed I am to have Michelle and Celia in my life. It’s helpful to take that step back and appreciate them, and then to tell them.
            And I’ll tell you what, the sex life has greatly improved ever since I’ve done it. Yay! We’re all winners!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Creation of Tay-Tay

            The kid is crawling all over the place. Sitting up. Pulling herself onto the coffee table. I think she’s going to start climbing stairs soon.
            There’s no down-time anymore. Used to be, I could read a book when she was playing on the carpet. She’d make her little “Da, da, da” sounds and I’d know she was happy. Now, even when she’s quiet I need to aware. Yesterday I looked up and couldn’t see her anywhere! I scoured the living room quickly, then stood and found her in the front room playing with the cable to the floor lamp.
            “Ah! Celia! This is not for you! Come over here and play with your toys!” I gently picked her up and brought her back to the living room. And she loves chewing on everything right now, because more teeth are coming in on the top.
            I just know she’s going to hurt herself. Michelle asked, “What happens if she chews through wires?”
            I looked at her and said, “If she touches both the positive and negative at the same time? El Zappo!”
            She raised her eyebrows, so I continued, “It would really hurt, if not kill her.”
            In fact, last week a co-worker told me the story of how he saw this little kid who seemed to have a discolored face, and he asked the dad what had happened, and the dad said, “He stuck a fork in an outlet. Scarred him for life.”
            Sheesh! How can you keep up with all of that?! And she just gets more and more inquisitive each day. It seems like she’s growing bored of “just” playing with toys. She’s got to see and experience every last nook and cranny of the house.
            Michelle texted me this morning, said the baby hit her head pretty hard on a corner.
            “Any blood?” I asked when I called her.
            “No, but she’ll definitely have a bruise.”
            “The first of many, I’m sure.”
I was telling a co-worker about her new adventures, and he said, “You’re going to start using the word ‘No’ a lot.”
I thought to myself, “No way. I don’t want to say that word to my child every day.” But what do you do? You’ve got to teach her boundaries. I definitely want her to understand that the guitar is “Daddy’s” and not hers to touch. But how to teach her?
Michelle said some Brits say, “Tay-Tay.” I like that. It seems like a nonsense word to me. And if Celia starts running around telling me, “Tay-Tay!” when she doesn’t want to do something, well, I think I’d like that more than a big, fat, “No!”. Yep, it’ll be a house of Tay-Tay from now on. Oh, I’m sure she’ll learn “No” as well, but it’s nice to have a strategy to tone it down.
Every month it seems like I’m thinking about different things with her. I’m now suddenly interested in a book on parenting that a good friend recommended, and I really appreciate it. Not that I need to practice it yet because she’s still pretty young, but it’s good to be prepared for when those moments do arise down the road. It’s happening fast. I didn’t know I was getting old so quickly, and the way this kid keeps growing reminds me. Yes, time is passing. Change happens quickly. Don’t lose track of that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Too-High Table Tensions

            Tensions are still high in our home. Michelle wants to buy a new bar-height table in the kitchen, and I think she’s crazy because it’s a small kitchen and it would overwhelm the space. But women must have their way, and she found one she liked on the online buy-and-sell we use here called Craigslist. After work I drove across town in rush hour traffic to check it out. It was decent enough, but I’m certain it’ll be too big for our little kitchen, so I called her to make sure she knew what she was getting into.
            “It’s six inches above the counter-top height. Are you sure!?
            “That sounds okay to me.”
            “You realize it’s high, right? It’s above my belt line.”
            “I think it sounds good.”
            What do you say? The wife wants it, and when it comes to arranging the home, I’ve really given her the reins because it was my house she moved in originally, and I want her to feel at home. So, I gave the women $70 and drove home in rush hour traffic, grumbling as I looked at the clock that I’d either have to miss out on spending time with the baby or playing soccer.
            By the time I arrived home, I was not a very nice man. Michelle and I argued in the kitchen as our house-mate watched Celia in the other room. I pointed and gestured with my fingers how much space the table would take up in the kitchen, and showed Michelle how the baby chair won’t come up to it. I could see her second-guessing herself, and I was irate.
I needed to get out, so I told her I was going to play soccer and I changed into my shorts. But before I could leave, Michelle said, “Install the curtain upstairs before you go.”
We accomplished a lot of household tasks over the long weekend, including a lot of baby-proofing, rearranging, and fixing our aquarium (for which our fish are eternally grateful), but I hadn’t had time to install the curtain. So, grumbling to myself, I pulled out the drill and other tools needed, and silently cursed every time the peg didn’t fit into the hole, the drill bit needed changing, or the wrong screw-head was used.
I did eventually play soccer, and it was indeed helpful to run off some steam, but of course, that doesn’t solve all of these unresolved issues. When I got home, my good friend Siamak was on the porch, and dinner was almost ready. So, the four of us sat at the normal-height kitchen table for what might be the last time and I thought about how nice it was to have a little table that just barely fits four.
I do have to say that the nice thing about having people around is that, although we didn’t work out the details of our issues on the spot, any ugly energy from either of us was diffused by the presence of others. Having a house-mate has its perks; besides the fact that he cares for Celia when we need him to, he provides some stability in our home. He is not going to get worked up about things involving the baby, because it’s not his baby. And I’ve always found that I’m just a little bit nicer when others are around.
We didn’t fully work things out, but we opened two bottles of wine and were laughing and discussing the issues by the end of the night. In the morning we both felt like we’d drunk too much, but I think it’s safe to say it was time well spent and wine well-ferment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Unmet Expectations at the Beach

            Michelle was upset with me Sunday.
It all comes down to expectations. Generally speaking, on the weekends her expectation is that I spend more time with Celia than on the weekdays, but on Sunday I was only in-and-out of touch from 8:00am till seeing her finally at the beach at 5:30pm. Not that I didn’t spend a lot of time with them, because it was a long weekend and I told her I’d make it up by spending all day Monday with Celia, but even so, by the time I finally met her at the beach, she was livid.
Add to that the fact that she gave me inaccurate directions, and I was driving around trying to find her amidst a crowded beach on a sunny day on the long weekend at the completely wrong location. I’d planned on meeting up with her by 4:30pm, and at 5:10pm she called me, “Where are you?”
“I’m driving up and down the beach. I can’t seem to find you anywhere! Where are you?!”
“I’m near the sailboats…”
“What?! That’s not Spanish Banks! That’s Jericho Beach!”
“Well that’s where I am…”
I was upset, and impatient, and I had to call her back a few times to figure out where she was exactly because it wasn’t accessible by car. By the time I found her we were both irritable, and the baby was crying so Michelle said, “I’m done with the beach. You can do what you want, stay or go. I’m going home,” and she walked away.
And I let her go. I was irritated and thought she was being immature. But then, by the time I finally got back to my car I thought to myself, “No matter how immature she’s being, I’m being impatient, and she’s obviously irritated that I wasn’t with her all day, so I need to at least apologize for that.”
I called her back, “I don’t want you to go.”
“What do you want me to do? I’m almost at the bus stop.”
“Wait there and I’ll pick you up. Where are you?”
When I pulled up I got out of the car and said, “I’m sorry for being so impatient.”
“I forgive you,” she said.
“Good.” I packed up the stroller and we drove back to the beach. Even with the apology there was still tension in the air, and I wasn’t sure how to diffuse it. The saving grace in all of this is our friends Brian and Christina met up with us with their little boy, and Michelle and Christina took a long walk while Brian and I talked about marriage and such over a beer. By the time Michelle got back, I grilled up some salmon and we had a lovely dinner and beautiful evening. At one point she even said, “What a great day it’s been.”
“Really?” I asked.
She looked at me and I could see her mentally reviewing all that had transpired, then said, “Well, yes. I think so.”
There’s the beauty of it. No matter how tense it can sometimes get with this whole parenting thing and sharing the duties, it seems at the end of the day we can always forgive each other and move on. That’s a beautiful thing. I’d even say it’s necessary to raise kids well. You don’t want to have all sorts of tension going on circulating around the child. What an awful burden for a child to bear, knowing deep down that they are the cause of tension and negativity, but never knowing for sure why they feel this way. And unless we as a couple can acknowledge the issues and deal with them, I’ll bet you they’ll percolate and churn underneath every word spoken, creating a mist of messiness in the air.
I think this is why it’s overall healthier for couples to wait to have kids till they’ve been together for a few years. At least by then they’ll have worked out some of the kinks in their relationship. Because I’ll tell you what, having children uncovers a whole ton of issues, and creates a whole lot more. It most certainly doesn’t solve any issues. This worries me, when couples who seem to have marital problems have kids as a sort of solution to keep them together. Not a very bright idea, in my eyes. Now, you’re not only dealing with marital ugliness, but the children are going to grow up into that. What an awful way to bring children into this world, that’s already so messed up. The least we can do is get our shit together before jumping into it.
I put my relationship with Michelle before Celia. Definitely. If Michelle and I are doing well, the baby will do well. If we let our relationship slack, I’m most certain that any efforts we put into a child won’t make a difference, they’ll still have emotional scarring because of the negativity in the home. We really have to guard the time we have together and make sure we’re upfront and honest about whatever we’re feeling. If the marriage is happy, the family will be happy, the home will be happy, and the whole neighborhood will be blessed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Baby Falling off the Bed

            The baby rolled off the bed while Michelle was downstairs. Michelle had left her on the bed for a nap, and as usual put up a pillow on each side of her so she wouldn’t roll off. But Celia is getting strong and rolling and crawling, so of course, it’s not unexpected that one day this would happen.
            It’s pretty scary when it does happen. It’s not a huge drop from our bed, a few feet, but even so, when we’re talking about babies and the potential of knocking her head or something, it can seem like a large thing when you first discover her on the floor.
            I remember when she fell a much greater distance. I was so upset with myself. I’m embarrassed to even write it down, because in retrospect it’s so foolish. I put her in her little bouncy chair on the table and left the room when she was about two months old. I know, idiotic. I know it was early morning, and I was tired, and I figured that the chair was stable. Who’d have thought she would start squirming and move the chair enough to drop off the table? When I rushed into the room, she was bawling face down on the floor with the chair on top of her and a bloody nose. It pains me greatly just thinking of it now. How terrible that I would allow that to happen! How negligent! I cried all the way to work that day, and prayed for her constantly.
            When Michelle called the doctor, he said, “Don’t worry. It’s the first of many dumb mistakes you two will make, and Celia’s a tough little baby. Did she start crying right away?”
            Michelle answered, “Yes.”
            “Good. That means she’s fine. It’s worse if they’re knocked unconscious. But call me again if you notice anything unusual.”
            Michelle called me and told me the doctor’s response. I was relieved, but also shaken. I swore to myself to be ever so careful with her. Always think carefully before leaving the room. Will she have the potential to do anything harmful while I’m gone? I think of how mobile she is now, crawling around, and how I could leave the room for less than a minute and when I come back she’ll be on the other side of the room with something questionable in her mouth. Yes, I need to be reminded of these things.
But I’ll tell you what, when something so potentially tragic happens early off in parenting, a little fall off the bed, which is only a couple of feet onto some carpet, seems like nothing. Especially now that she’s stronger and able to maneuver around. So, when Michelle told me the news, I barely flinched.
            “She’s okay, right?” I asked.
            “Yeah. She cried for awhile. But no bruises.”
            “What’d you do for lunch?” I asked.
            “Leanne and Maria came over, so I served them the leftovers,” she said.
            I guess, as in most things in life, as we grow older we get less surprised by things. Sure, it all still happens, sometimes even worse than before, but those first times they happen always seem more vivid and terrible than the subsequent ones.
But then I think of parents who lose their kids tragically. Frankly, I can’t handle watching movies where kids get killed or abducted. It’s way too disturbing to me right now. And who would it help, watching that stuff? It would put bad thoughts in my head, and I’d probably worry over Celia much more. What’s the good in that?
No, I think I’ll try to keep a good balance of watching over her while being aware that shit happens. Sure, she’ll fall off the bed, but that’s going to be nothing compared to some of the stupid stuff these kids do as teenagers. Believe me, I still remember some of the shenanigans I was doing back in the day, who knows what the kids of tomorrow will pull off? Better to keep a clear head, an open mind, and prayerful heart. That ought to get me through.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Struggle with Vocation

            In some ways, these have been the best months of my life. Devoting myself to this little baby, growing in my capacity to love, caring for another while expecting nothing in return. All these things have deeply influenced me to become a better man.
            And yet, I still feel this deep yearning, the one I’ve felt for much of my life, that I want more. I want to achieve great things, accomplish good works, succeed in my vocation. Some may say, “But raising a family is a vocation!” I know for Michelle, that’s all she’s got right now. But for me I say, “Yes, but…”
            The word “vocation” comes from the Latin, and means literally “calling.” It’s far more than a profession or a job, it’s about a life’s calling. What are we, as individuals, called to do specifically in our lives. This does include a job and raising a family, but I think the vocational question runs even deeper than these. It touches on the spiritual and the significant. What is my purpose? What is the vision for my life?
            I sometimes feel frustrated, being pinned down with this child. I recognize that raising a family is a part of the way I’m wired, but I also want to get out there and take on the world, and having a family drastically limits that. I mean, look at how much I stay at home each evening nowadays! I used to go out a lot, or throw parties more, anyway. Now, it’s work during the day, stay home at night. End of story. End of me!
            No, no, that’s not true, either. I am blessed to be doing this, but it is indeed a struggle. Is it a balance? I don’t know. I can try to balance the important things in life, but it seems like there’s a complete imbalance right now; the baby took over nearly everything, so how on earth can I actually balance all the rest of what used to be my life into those tiny moments of free time, especially when I’m oftentimes exhausted?!
            It’s not like I’m putting my life on hold because of this baby, but it certainly feels sometimes like I won’t have much opportunity outside of this. I wonder if it’s going to be the kind of experience where I throw myself so fully into a different way of living that it radically changes me? Will I lose who I was before? Or will it simply augment that? Will I still accomplish things? I suppose so, but I’m sure it will be at a different pace and probably even different kinds of things.
            Well, whatever the future holds, I realize that dwelling in an unreality of what is to come isn’t helpful for the present. I’ve got to get back to things here and now, get rooted in this moment, because I don’t know what the future will hold and all I’ve really got is the here and now. So, instead of worrying, I hope I can have the strength to enjoy what’s going on, and maybe not lose sight of some of this bigger dreams I’ve had for my life. Who knows, maybe one day it’ll all make sense?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Diaper Compromise

            Amazing what a good night’s rest does for the spirits. I feel great today. Full of energy and life. Taking on the world. Making lots of phone calls at work. Playing things assertive and tough, but well-natured. I feel like I’m back.
            Funny though. Celia was up at around 5am, and Michelle gave her to me at 5:40am. I was sluggish and she cried a lot, until I finally gave up at 7am and took her back to bed. I fell asleep for an hour, so I was late for work, but boy, do I feel great! I think I’m going to give myself this kind of flexibility in the future. A little late, but way more efficient. The time I’ve lost by being late is easily made up in my productivity.
            The baby is wonderful these days. When I come home from work she always smiles and giggles now. It makes a man feel great, like a real hero. It reminds me of why I wanted to have children, unlike all those diaper changes.
            Speaking of which, Michelle and I have come to a compromise. You’ve got to love it when compromises win the day. We’re cancelling the diaper service, and buying a certain kind of cloth diaper that is easy to put on, maintain, and wash, and we’ll use them half-and-half with disposables.
Michelle said, “You use the disposables, and I’ll use the cloth.” It makes me smile just to think of it. We really do work well together. Michelle does way more of the diaper changes, so overall it will be an enormous cost savings, I figure. I’ll know when I look at our finances again in a month or so.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Foggy

            Still tired.
            Let’s face it, the baby is still waking up at night, and Michelle is still feeding her. I need to find the time to actually sit down with Michelle and discuss these things, because it’s building up in me as resentment, mostly because we agreed upon a different strategy.
            Everything is exacerbated when things aren’t going well and the body is tired, muscles ache, and head is foggy. My back is sore every day now. I’m sure that when I stop stooping to pick up a baby all the time it’ll recover, but for now, it’s a real pain.
            I need another vacation.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Baby Blessing, Mothers Day, and 3:30am Arguments

            Mothers Day has come and gone. I tried my darndest to do all I could to make Michelle happy. I think I did okay. I bought her a nice dress a few weeks ago, which she wore. I wrote her a nice little card. I took responsibility for the baby more than usual.
            But last night was crazy. Michelle had a hard time falling asleep, and then the baby woke up at 3am. I was cranky. Michelle was feeding the baby and I said, “You’re not going to do that very long, are you?” We did agree that we’d wean her from night-time feeding.
            Michelle silently relented and put the baby back in the crib. But when the baby started to cry again, Michelle said, “Forget it. I’m exhausted. I need to sleep. I’m feeding her to sleep.”
            Okay. No discussion. I get it. But I was upset that Michelle hasn’t been following the sleeping and weaning program that we agreed upon. I said to her, “I have no pity for you. You’ve brought this on yourself. This isn’t what we agreed. We agreed to wean her.”
            “Fine!” Michelle responded, baby in her arms as she breast-fed. “I’ll sleep in the guest room and you deal with her at night.”
            I paused. “Okay. If that’s what you want. But I don’t think it’s a good parenting decision on your part.”
            There was silence for a moment. The baby quieted and Michelle put her back in the crib. Then Michelle said, “I don’t feel understood.”
            Through the haze of my crankiness I realized how ridiculous it was to argue at 3:30am. After a moment of silence, I pulled her in and held her tight, then began massaging her back tenderly. After a couple minutes she had melted and we’d both calmed. We said a few kind words to each other, and it wasn’t long before we were kissing and making love. And I couldn’t help but think that, although this baby was giving us a rude interruption to our sleep, the whole episode sure had a happy ending!
            The crazy thing is, that wasn’t even the highlight of the day. Yesterday was the big day when we brought Celia to the front of our church for a blessing and dedication. The whole church community gathered around and said words of blessing and prayer. I felt utterly privileged to be Celia’s parent in that moment. How amazing it is that we have the honor and responsibility of caring for an eternal soul. It’s mind-boggling.
            Celia was beautiful in her little dress, and she behaved wonderfully. When the pastor said something about her character, she suddenly started babbling, “Da-Da-Da-Da-Da!” and the whole church laughed. Yep, she’s a great little charmer. Full of smiles and spunk. You’ve gotta love her.
            Now my parents are gone, and I already miss them. They’re a great support to all of us. My mom would take the baby in the early hours, which meant I could get more sleep. Although I felt really bad for her when we went out one afternoon. We were gone two hours and Celia completely broke down, wailing uncontrollably. Poor Mom. She seemed so exhausted when we walked in the door. I couldn’t believe how awful Celia’s crying sounded when we walked in. And then she quieted right away when we started talking to her.
            We really need to teach her to be with other adults besides me and Michelle. There’s the proof. I mean, that was my mom, and she still had trouble.
            Today I’m pooped. Not enough sleep, in addition to that explosion of emotions last night. I wish I could get a nap in, but I have no idea when. I’m not sure how parents ever really catch up on sleep. Maybe that’s a misnomer; we never really “catch up” but one day we look back and realize that somewhere along the way we became more rested.
            I look forward to that day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Different Parenting Styles and Diapers

            Michelle was upset with me yesterday. The baby was crawling around and got herself into a predicament where she wanted the book but the table leg was in the way. So, of course, she started to cry. Michelle came rushing in from the kitchen to extricate the baby but I said, “Leave her. I want her to learn how to figure it out herself.”
            “But she’ll wind herself up and get upset,” Michelle urged.
            “She’ll figure it out,” I said. “We just have different parenting styles. We’re okay in here, you can go back to the kitchen.”
            Michelle left the room in a huff, and Celia figured it out and stopped crying. However, within ten minutes I was getting pulled to something else and I gave the baby back to Michelle. When I came back in fifteen minutes Michelle was trying to feed one grumpy baby. Michelle looked at me with fire in her eyes and said, “Different parenting styles?! I’m the one who spends all day with her! I know what she needs! She’s upset now!”
            She abruptly lifted the crying baby and went upstairs. I decided to give her space, rather than try to intervene at that moment. Interestingly, the baby fell right asleep. So, okay, when you look at this objectively from afar, the baby was just her normal cranky self when she’s tired and ready to sleep. It may or may not have had anything to do with learning to maneuver around a table leg. Objectively, I think I could argue either side.
            But of course, with the ladies, one must learn that objective analysis has pretty much no weight compared to her feelings. And her feelings were hurt. I think she felt devalued by me, as if I didn’t value her opinion. Not that she was necessarily right, but I probably could have said something like, “Thanks for your concern sweetie. I just want to give her a chance to work through it herself, if that’s okay with you.”
            It does raise an interesting issue that’s come for us a few times; different parenting styles. Overall, we’re pretty similar on the most important issues, but there are some key things that we disagree on. So far, we’ve pretty much compromised or ended up going with one or the other’s leaning. I think collaboration is pretty much the best way to go. Ideally, if we could come up with the time and energy to talk through our differences, do some research, and come up with a collaborative decision, I think all three of us would be happier. But of course, who has time for that? Only on the biggest issues.
            For example, Celia’s cloth diapers pissed me off again this morning. I was so frustrated trying to get her packaged up in it, the cloth kept peeking through around her leg, and if anything peeks out, even a tiny pee will soak through to the clothing. Either I really suck at this, or those cloth diapers really suck. Whichever one it is, I’m ready to switch back. Screw the environmental issues, this is such a headache.
            Okay, okay, I’m emotional. Let me think on this for a bit longer and talk with Michelle. I’m sure she’s probably encountering this as well. I think this is a bigger issue that requires collaboration, because it hits our pocketbook, the environment, and our happiness factor for ease of changing (already my least favorite thing to do with the baby). Maybe that’s why this is a charged issue. Dirty diapers are pretty much the worst thing about a kid, and any issues around it seems like they’re magnified a few times bigger than they really are.
            I look forward to the day when the score changes in my favor. Dirty Diapers 193. Dad 194. Yes, that day will come. The day where little Celia is ready to use a non-diaper alternative, i.e. the toilet. I never thought I’d so look forward to someone using a toilet. Who ever knew it could be such a fantastic source of anticipation? I think that’s one thing Michelle and I both can agree on and strive toward. We could almost give it a proper name, to reflect the emotional load it has begun to carry:
The Toilet of Hope. Coming soon to a theatre near you!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Crawling!

            Celia is really crawling around now. It started with backward crawling about a month ago. We’d put her on the ground just a few inches from some toy, and she’d try her best to strain and reach for the toy until finally realizing she’d have to move. But then, when she’d get on her knees she’d go backwards for some reason. Or roll. She’d groan and try her best to reach the toy, but really all she did was pretty much random rolling and edging herself backward.
            All month long I’ve been waiting for her to crawl. Every day I’d think to myself, “Tomorrow will be the day.” But then she’d still be just barely unable.
            When she finally did figure out how to go forward, she strained and groaned and finally lifted one hand, moving it about two inches forward. Then, she strained and groaned and moved the other hand two inches forward. After the third time she broke down crying.
            Every day since then she’s been able to move forward just a little bit more before the crying starts. She went from moving a few inches to moving a few feet, to finding the wires on the other side of the room and putting them in her mouth! Eek! We rushed over and pulled them out. We definitely need to baby-proof our house.
I love these different stages of development. She is slowly aging and learning, and we get to be a part of all of that. The most important step for me was when she started to smile, around two months old. Before that, she was just a sleeping and pooping machine. Of course, I loved her, but it was so difficult to receive no real response from her. When she gave that first smile, I knew she was interacting with me, and I felt this deep sense of fatherhood. Yes, this is my daughter. She has responded to me.
Of course, I loved it when she started to laugh, and when she discovered her toes. Now, every day is full of new discoveries for her. She’s observing everything, you can tell. Watching. Learning. Growing.
Last night we went to our friends’ house for dinner, and Celia stayed awake the whole time. That alone is shocking, because her bedtime is around 7pm, and we didn’t leave till after 9pm. But the biggest shock was that she was so pleasant the whole time! She barely fussed at all. She rolled around on the floor for awhile. She sat with us at the table for a bit. She ate some of my dad’s special chicken and rice. She was such a well-behaved baby, I kept marveling at her throughout the night. Who knows, maybe it was a fluke, but I don’t know, something tells me she’s maturing marvelously.
Again, maybe this is a fluke, but this morning I had my guitar in my lap and Celia showed interest, so I put her on my lap with the guitar in front of her and strummed a bit. She put her hands on the strings, which dampened the sound. I plucked a string and said, “Look, Celia. Pluck. Pluck.” I plucked the string over and over. She looked up at me, then pulled her hand away and made a beautiful sound. “Yay! Well done! You plucked it!” She put her hand back on it and pulled it off again. “Very good! Pluck! Pluck!” She slapped the strings. “That’s strumming! Well done, Celia! Strum! Strum!”
I smiled and my mom started taking pictures. A good ol’ family moment.
Who knows? Maybe Celia really figured it out. Or maybe I was just lucky. Only time will tell. Either way, I certainly am enjoying her maturity. The fact that she wants her space now. Praise God! Have your space, baby. Have your space! Take all the space you need, give us the time to breathe, and please…
Grow at your own pace.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grumpy Parent

            I woke up grumpy today.
            Not enough sleep. Not enough sex. Not enough exercise.
            At 3am and 5am the baby was crying. At 5:58am Michelle said, “Okay, your turn.” Grumble, grumble, grumble.
First thing I did was change the diaper. What a mess. Then ten minutes later she was crying again. Those frickin’ cloth diapers got soaked through so quickly and then they just sat there on Celia’s body making her complain, and when I finally changed her it had already leaked out onto her clothes. I’ll tell you what, at 6:12am I don’t care how much price difference they are, and I don’t care how bad they’re going to be for the environment plugging up landfills, I was craving disposable diapers again.
I mean that seriously, I was craving them. It was like a deep, grouchy desire battering against a sleep-deprived brain. “Convert back to disposable,” it was telling me. “You know you want to.”
I did some mental math. If Celia uses ten diapers a day on average, the cloth diaper service is costing us $20 a week, the biodegradable disposable diapers cost around $38, and the mainstream disposables cost $27. Hmm. The third option seems awfully enticing.
Now that I’ve had a few coffee’s, chatted with clients, and engaged with society outside of fecal matter, my head’s cleared and I’m starting to lean back to the first option. Yes, it’s a hassle, but it’s not only cheaper, it’s quite a lot more environmentally friendly. Still, what a headache at six in the morning. 
As I was going out the door to work my mother (who’s still in town visiting) said, “Be in good spirits.” Thanks Mom. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Michelle called me when I was almost at work. “Are you still grouchy?” she asked.
“I suppose so,” I said.
“You don’t have to be. Make the choice. You don’t have to be grumpy any more past this very moment. It’s just a choice you have to make.”
I know what she was trying to do, but at that very moment I just couldn’t commit to that. I was just too tired and grouchy to try to change my attitude.
Finally, after eight minutes of trying to convince me, she could see she was getting nowhere. She said, “Say something nice to me. I need to hear something nice before you hang up.”
I sat there for a moment, then said, “You’re beautiful.”
She said, “Really? Aw, thanks sweetie!”
I smiled. Damn! How’d she do that?
“Okay, have a great day at work.”
“Thanks. You too.” I hung up and went inside.
I’m amazed at single parents. I’m amazed at the sheer effort it would require to parent their child well. I’m sure I’d have been a lot more ornery today if not for that wonderful woman, keeping me in check. If I were a single dad I’d probably manage, but my baby would smile less and cry more. I’m sure of it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sleep Training and the Thingy

            “Where’s the thingy!?” Michelle called out to me.
            “It’s in the place!” I called back.
            “Oh yeah! Thanks!”
I smiled at her, then shook my head when I realized how ridiculous our conversation would appear to an outside observer. The undescriptive method of communication hasn’t always been so successful, either. It would seem that the world “thingy” or just plain old “thing” are now the most common words for Michelle to use to describe something, and there have been moments of frustration as she can’t communicate her needs and I have no idea what she’s talking about.
            It all comes down to lack of sleep.
            It seems like it’s the first question people always ask when they find out I’m a new dad. “How’s the sleep going?” They all somehow expect that this is the great Gauntlet of Fire one must traverse in having a child, thus paying our dues and joining the rest of child-bearing humanity. And in some ways, I think that’s actually kind of accurate. It sure is a trial, and it sure seems like most parents have to deal with it.
            I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I secretly and deeply envy my friends who have babies who sleep well right off the bat. How did they get such a child? Will that baby be a super mellow person as an adult?
But, regardless of what other peoples’ babies are like, my baby is pretty standard. She slept excellently the first two weeks out of the womb, and then went into a pattern of feeding every two or three hours all day and night long, up until really only a couple months ago. I think we, much like other parents out there, got to the point of desperation. Michelle had black rings under her eyes, her vocabulary was shrinking, and her hand-eye coordination was dropping. I was getting grouchier, less social, and less productive at work. Eventually, we knew we had to do something.
It took months before that something crystallized into finally sitting down and watching that DVD we borrowed from a friend, finally agreeing on a plan of action, and seeing results. The baby wakes up once or twice at night nowadays, for very short feedings or a change. And that’s it. Believe me, that’s a vast improvement on four feedings of forty-five minutes each.
Already I’ve seen a huge difference in Michelle’s overall energy and mood. However, the last two nights the baby has had diarrhea, and a parent quickly learns that all we’ve taught the baby so far about sleeping through the night, all the countless hours and nights of training, all this can disappear in a single, wet and smelly instant.
It’s not the nicest thing to wake up to at 3am. Actually, of all the things I’ve woken up to in my life so far, I think it’s pretty much my least favorite. Thankfully, I have a stellar wife who’s done most of the midnight diaper changes, but early this morning I awoke with a gasp! Something was terribly wrong! Something was constricting my breathing! Something was… ah yes, the indistinguishable aroma.
Michelle saw me wake up and said, “Ephie, look at this. What do you think? Is there something wrong with her?”
Well, of course there’s something wrong with her! She’s got diarrhea! But I know what Michelle means. She wants a second opinion to make sure the baby isn’t in some sort of serious shape. As every parent wonders about often. I can’t even imagine how parents deal with it when their baby truly is in awful shape. At least for us, it would seem like it’s a normal bout of everyday over-the-counter illness.
“She’s okay, sweetheart,” I said, and turned away from the grotesque scene to try to go back to sleep.
“But look at this thingy here,” Michelle said.
I turned back and peered at the particularly gooey section of the diaper. “Isn’t that what she ate for dinner?”
Michelle looked at me and folded it up. Her non-verbal way of agreeing with me; wait it out and see if it gets worse or better.
“And honey?” I said.
“Yes?”
“I wouldn’t really call it a ‘thingy.’ It’s a bit too gooey for that.”
She smiled as I turned back and fell soundly asleep.

Monday, May 4, 2009

B & B

My parents have finally arrived. It’s so nice to have them here, and the baby loves having the extra people around with that familiar feel. Although I have to remember that it was a really long time ago that my mom raised babies. Yesterday after soccer I came home to see my mom holding the baby on the front porch. It’s so gorgeous out right now, with blossoms everywhere, and the baby was at peace. It was the best thing to come home to.
Mom said she’d had a break-down just a few minutes before. I was surprised, because she seemed so happy, but when we brought her inside she threw a fit. Screaming at the top of her lungs, face turning red, eyes completely shut. My mom looked at me with her shoulders raised, as in, “What should we do?”
I said, “Where’s Michelle?”
“Upstairs taking a nap.”
I said, “What Celia needs is a little B & B.”
My mom looked at my quizzically, “B & B…?”
“Boob and Bed.”
She said, “But Michelle’s sleeping!”
“Doesn’t matter.” I took the baby and went upstairs. Michelle leaped out of bed when she heard the screaming. I said, “Get back in there, it’s time for some B & B.”
And of course, everything was fine after that. Baby got herself a full stomach and a nice, long nap. I guess that’s what happens when it’s been over thirty years since you’ve had a baby; you forget that the baby’s needs takes priority over our own. Of course, only to a limit. Michelle and I make every effort to see that our own needs are met. No “martyr syndrome” for us. You know, the parent who loses their life entirely for the sake of their kids, and then when their kids get older they resent the fact that their parent has no life outside of them, because they want independence and maturity, which the parent can never allow them to have. Even as adults, these “kids” have been trained to rely on their parents for everything, and so the parent loses their self-esteem and the kids either have to rebel against them or remain immature the rest of their lives.
We are certainly not doing that, but at the same time, the baby is a baby. She has needs and they really are urgent. Much more than ours. The challenge is finding time for ourselves in the midst of it all. Even if, just like now, all I can do is take twenty minutes in the middle of the day to write down a few things, that’s sometimes enough. Sure, I’d like more, but I’m no martyr. I’m doing okay. And so is the baby.