Saturday, January 21, 2012

Things I have learned in the last year (since having a child)

[I've been working on this list for a long while but wanted to wait until we'd been at this parenting thing for at least a year before I posted it. We're a week shy of Ben's birthday so I guess we didn't quite make that deadline. But that's ok. This list has changed slightly over the last few months and I suppose it will continue to evolve over the next years as well. So consider this a list that is good for today. Tomorrow's list could be entirely different].

A few lessons, a few reflections, and one regret from our first year as parents:

  • I didn't know the meaning of 'sleep depreivation' until I had a newborn. There were many, many days during the first six weeks that I dreaded the night-time. And frankly, I often felt that I was living underwater for those first nine months. For a girl that loves her sleep, it was torture. 
  • Joining a local email listserve was a fantastic way to acquire lightly used toys, strollers, and clothes. Our's is through Yahoo Groups and is an amazing resource, and not just for kid-related items/issues. They have everything from plumber recommendations to places to take children on  rainy days. We also bought an umbrella stroller, a bike trailer, clothes, shoes, and toys through our listserve at great prices. This is truly a fantastic resource. Plus, Craigslist and summer garage sales are gold mines of hardly-used second hand items. That said, the kiddo ain't cheap. We've spent money hand over fist this year. 
  • We are constantly amazed by this child. Chris and I look at each other frequently: How did we produce this perfect, wee little babe? Watching his personality start to develop has been so much fun. He's full of laughter, easy-going, and a bit on the mischievous side. Our weekends now mostly consist of us sitting around and watching Ben play. He is that entertaining. [Right. I realize that only a baby's parents would be so devoted as to spend all their waking hours watching their child play. Clearly we're a bit biased]. 
  • We went from being very hale and hardy to aways, aways sick. Chris and I have started calling the Bambino 'our sweet little petri dish'. He's a generous one too, and likes to share whatever he has with us. Yuck.
  • The first time the baby smiled was like the sun peeking above the horizon: simply glorious. He had us hook, line, and sinker. 
  • Having a baby is life-changing. Duh. I knew that. But I also failed to anticipate how it complicates matters. No longer are we fancy free and footloose. Every single outing requires planning. No longer are we especially welcome at posh restaurants, on airplanes, at parties... A trip to the grocery store is no longer quite so quick. Or simple, especially if Ben is napping. And those lazy weekend naps we used to take, unless we manage to time them with the baby's, are a thing of the past.
  • That said, for the most part, I'm ok with the lifestyle change [with a few reservations]. I love having this baby in our life. Taking him to the zoo, celebrating Christmas, going for walks to the park: I'd forgotten the joy that kids experience (and share) with simple activities. They truly live in the moment and it is a good reminder to relax, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy life, to the best of one's ability.  
  • It is disgusting how much plastic (in all forms) is marketed towards children. That said, there are some pretty ingenious plastic gadgets out there. 
  • I am so grateful to have a partner to parent with. The stresses and worries are easier to deal with if you have someone that is equally committed to the cause and shares the same concerns.  I have such a new-found appreciation and respect for single moms and dads. How on earth do they manage without the support of another adult? From my vantage point, it looks like it would be completely overwhelming. 
  • Additionally, I am so grateful to have family members near and far that are involved in Ben's life. This baby has a wonderful extended family. I am grateful that they love him -and us, too- as they are willing to watch the babe whilst we take a few minutes to ourselves. For Chris and me, having time alone, without the constant pressures of child rearing, is very, very important. I miss our long rambling conversations about life, and dreams and travels. Life was slower and more relaxed without the baby. These last few months especially have been a whirlwind of activity: little sleep, a crawling child, sick family, and a husband working crazy hours. A part of me dearly misses those slow days. Having a few hours every week to relax and unwind are so gratefully appreciated. My mental health thanks you, dearest family members.  
  • I love seeing Chris and Benjamin together. Chris walks in the door at night and Ben lights up, starts windmilling him arms, and does a frantically gleeful army crawl over to his papa. Chris was, like many guys, fairly reserved around babies and I often wondered how he'd take to our own little bambino, once he was born. Talk about a dumb worry. This little babe has his papa wrapped tight 'round his chubby little finger. Their adoration for each other, from this mother's point of view, is completely and utterly charming. I'm sure it's nauseatingly saccharine to everyone else. 
  • I used to think that a shower was a mandatory daily activity. Now I consider it a major success if I manage to sneak one in. And working out/getting exercise? GOLD STAR DAY. 
  • And lastly, but most importantly, I love this child more than I ever thought possible. 

My Dears, is there anything you'd add to the list? There must be lots.

My regret:

I'm not sure I have the skill to properly express this sentiment but know that it comes from a good, well-intentioned place:

The only loser this year has been Bailey. In a big way. He went from being an adored, beloved pup, who was the apple of his owner's being replaced by a screaming, tail/ear-pulling terror. He is a step lower on the totem pole.

While that may not seem like much of a change, it was a monumental and fundamental shift for our poor dog.

And given that it happened in his retirement years, when things should be calm, and steady, and peaceful, the change was especially egregious.

No longer are the seats down in Pepe the Prius, making for a giant, car-riding playground. He has been relegated to the very, very back. No longer is he allowed upstairs in the house, as he constantly woke the baby from deep slumber with a shake of his collar. Not to mention the dog hair that made its way into every nook and cranny (crib, chair, diaper!). Instead of following my every step he is always being told to "Go to your bed". Which is in the corner, out of the way. The list continues. This poor dog.

Through it all, he has been the wonderful pooch that we know and love. A few behaviors have emerged as he's sought to best the baby in the game for attention. Little does he know that he's on the losing end of that battle. For example, he has taken to placing himself between me and Ben in the hopes that, by forcefully inserting his body directly in front of me, I'll forget about the baby and will pet him instead. And he accosts anybody that comes to the door, knowing that the visitor will soon make a beeline for the baby. His biggest champion in this regard is Eric, who dotes on him excessively upon arrival.

And my parents have been so sweet: they take Bailey off to 'Dog Camp', as we call it, for a bit so that he can have time when he doesn't have to compete against the child for attention. Bailey is loathe to leave their house. Always. [What wonderful parents.]

So I guess my regret is that I wish I'd planned out our dog-owning days a bit better, to the extent that one can plan such a thing. In a perfect world, our sweet pup would have grown old and passed away, before the arrival of the baby. He would have enjoyed his retirement years being feted and adored unconditionally by us. Not replaced.

I still love him, still adore him. But I'm also unapologetic in that my focus has changed. Benjamin is, at this time, my top priority. But I regret the shift deeply.

Both Chris and I agree that we'd like to have dogs later on. When our child is older. I had a steady succession of pups growing up and I'd like to continue the tradition. But after Bailey is gone, which may not be for another few years yet, depending on the condition of his hips, I think we'll take a break. I think a new dog, coming into the family, would quickly realize its place in the family hierarchy. It's Bailey's sudden down-grade has been so difficult for us all, but especially him, that has left me so remorseful.

Live and learn, I suppose.