Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Wild, Wacky Parenting Ride

Today we had Max's first pediatric appointment, and all went well. So well, in fact, that a watershed moment occurred during the appointment when Max flashed his first real smile, at me, while the doctor was watching. What a ham. My blood, of course.

To be fair, he'd smiled previously, but only when he was either sleeping, or seemingly accidentally. But this was different; this was a smile of recognition and acknowledgment. And it felt good. Real good.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to my point, which is how easily the brain softens the memory of exhaustion that comes with a having a baby, especially when so much time has elapsed since the first. So when the first smile comes, or when your baby lets loose with those heart-melting little newborn coos, or when those little arms and legs start flailing stiffly while on the changing table, it all feel so wonderfully familiar. But when the fits of inconsolable unhappiness hit at 11 or 12 at night (or 2 or 3 in the morning), you find yourself wondering, why didn't I recall this stuff? I mean, I recalled it, but the memory didn't feel this draining.

It's the difference between fathering a newborn at 31 and then at 43. I'm quickly seeing that this is going to be quite the endurance test, and I can only hope I'm up to the task. When I'm facing toddler revolts and food resistance and backtalk at 47 and 49 and 54, who knows how I'll respond? With laughter, I hope. After all, I'm a much more fully realized adult at this juncture, so I should be able to handle the demands of a child with much more aplomb than I have the first time around.

I know I'm handling my second wife with much more aplomb than my first. I feel much less frustrated and lost this time, and I feel much less pressure to do as much as possible, possibly because Sarah is a first-time parent, which makes her pretty eager to play house. She can't seem to pull herself away from the round-the-clock cycle of feedings, dressings, laundry, etc.

Conversely, my first son was my first wife's third child, so she had been there, done that, and thus was fine with my taking the lead, so I really had no choice but to step to the plate in a huge way. This time I'm more on the periphery, a satellite revolving around Sarah and Max, ready to act when needed--with a diaper change, a back rub, a needed errand, or a meal. It allows me to be a small step further back, taking it all in, seeing the forest for the trees.

All that said, at this point, I hope Sarah's current thinking (that she really doesn't want to be pregnant again) holds--I don't know if I'm up for going through the gauntlet of pregnancy/birth/newborn again. I'll lose the Sarah I fell in love with forever. She'll be Mom first and Sarah second. Actually, she's already begun that transformation, but if I'm only up against one little voice, I still have a fighting chance.

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