Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What I know about parenting

Baby Olivia and Dear Alex on the sliding board.
It's scary how big Dear Alex has gotten.

(I remember when she was just a peanut...)

This weekend we had guests in the country, a crazy great couple with their sweet Baby Olivia, and we had a fine time with the kids and talking over the joys and trials of parenting. It occurred to me that we were the putative experts, having ourselves survived the early months relatively unscathed, and having Dear Alex alive and well and mostly unharmed by us so far. Looking back, it's a little hard to believe that it's almost three years now that Dear Alex has been with us, and how completely our lives have changed. That really is what kids do - whatever you had planned or thought about changes forever and what we spent the most time talking about was how little that mattered, and how there is really nothing to do but relax and ride it out. After a while you forget the anxieties and terrors of that tiny age. It may be that the sleeplessness and the constant worry about whether you're doing the right thing simply strikes the tough stuff from your memory as it's constantly being replaced by the next challenge and the little triumphs of first steps, laughs and words.

From my own experience, I can recall the feelings of how incredibly one-sided my relationship with Dear Alex felt - she was a black hole of constant neediness, without any emotional return-on-investment, so to speak. Babies don't really care - as long as someone changes the diaper or supplies the bottle there isn't going to be a thank you for a very long time - but the gratification comes later with a smile, or the feel of a tiny hand in yours and the feeling of amazing responsibility and capability for simply keeping them whole and happy. Baby Olivia reminded me of how sturdy and resilient (and cute) little babies are - the better to survive the inept ministrations of parents like me, who are constantly learning on the job, which is all any of us can ever do.

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