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Archive for the ‘Parenthood’ Category

In Defense of Our Dogs

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Scout - Summer 2009

Much like many young couples do, when GAP and I had been married about two years and bought a house, we got a dog.  His name is Scout, and I can promise you that he is the best dog in the world.  I say this with, yes, some bias.  But my opinion is backed by many people who know Scout and are marginally less biased than I am.

I can also substantiate Scout’s superiority among all canines with such stories as how he once staked out a burrow dug in our back yard by a mama rabbit, sniffed it each day for more than a week, and when the baby bunnies finally emerged actually played with them in the gentlest way possible.  He crouched to the ground making himself as small as 100 pounds can become, gently pawing near – but not at – them, never once even inadvertently hurting the tiny mouse-sized creatures.  (We have it on video.)  When I was reading Book 7 in the Harry Potter series and (spoiler alert!) got to the scene where Dobby dies, I lay on the couch crying silently as I read and Scout walked over from our foyer and started licking the tears from my cheeks.  He changed his morning routine for the entirety of my first pregnancy, not going downstairs* to go outside until I came down myself.  He walks at our sides without a leash.  He supervised SSP’s tummy time.  He barks only on command.  And he loves everyone.  One of these days he will leave us, and I will cry for days.  (I tear up just typing those words.)

I feel the need to proclaim the magnificence of Scout (and his brother Jasper) because of this article on Slate that basically decries all pre-child pet ownership.  Author Allison Benedikt spends the better part of a thousand words complaining about how the dog she once loved and doted on is now merely a blight on her home life.  The whole thing just made me sad.  I’m sure it’s true for most parents that the time and attention they gave to their pets before becoming parents dropped off significantly after they first carried a pumpkin seat into the house.  (I know it is for us.)  And I’m sure that for many of those parents the arrival of children into the family renders the earlier decision to purchase of a pet a mistake not easily corrected.  But I’m here to say that’s not always the case.

Balancing life with kids and life with pets is hard.  We have two 100-ish-pound dogs and a tiny back yard.  This means I have to walk our dogs two miles every morning to keep them exercised and free from cabin fever.  They shed mountains of hair weekly, which means that sweeping is a never-ending task.  Sometimes they get skin infections and require antibiotics twice a day for weeks at a time.  And every time we want to leave town we have to make arrangements for a house sitter.  I’m not saying I’m the perfect pet owner.  Their monthly flea medications usually get administered a few days late (and sometimes missed altogether).  Their daily walks often get pushed aside on weekends.  And we don’t brush them as often as we should.  But we do our best to keep up with it all because of the incredible joy they bring to our family.

But there is more to pet ownership than a collection of touching anecdotes.  Scout and Jasper were also wonderful preludes to kids in a number of ways.  They taught us many of our early lessons about caring for someone else.  About praise and discipline and devotion.  About cleaning up messes.  About regular checkups and maintenance medications.  Many things that come into play (on a much larger scale, obviously) with children we first experienced with our dogs.  Over and above that, both the CDC and WebMD document the health benefits of pets.  They have the ability to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.  They stimulate the exercise levels of their owners.  And they provide companionship to people living alone.

I’m not saying pets are for everyone.  They are a long-term commitment and a lot of work, and the decision to get one shouldn’t be made simply because it seems like it’s the next step in life or because the puppy at the pet store is cute.  But I am saying that, contrary to the perspective on Slate, pets can enrich your life after you have children every bit as much as they did before you had kids.

In one of my favorite Louis CK bits (I couldn’t find a clip) he bemoans the day that someone gave his kids a puppy.  To paraphrase, he says something along the lines of, “I don’t know why anyone would ever give another person a puppy.  It’s just about the meanest present you could ever give.  It’s like saying, ‘Here you go.  Here’s a broken heart in eight to ten years.’”

As for me, I’ll take the broken heart, because I wouldn’t wish away my dogs for the world.

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*Until I was pregnant he went downstairs with GAP and our other dog, Jasper (who is also wonderful, but is no Scout), first thing in the morning.  From week 10 to week 39 of my pregnancy Scout wouldn’t start his day until I started mine.  In my second pregnancy he went downstairs before me to be close to IEP.

Access and Advice

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Who’s at the top of your phone tree when you need advice?  Especially when it comes to matters of parenting, where do you go?  To your mother or sister?  Perhaps an aunt or grandmother?  Maybe your mother-in-law or a kind older neighbor?  Or do you go to Gwyneth Paltrow or Jessica Alba?

I got to thinking about this question after reading this blog post by Kate Spencer over at HuffPo.  It is mostly about how our culture focuses too much on regaining your “post-baby body” at the expense of much more important aspects of motherhood.  And Spencer makes some very worthwhile points on that score.  However, it was the issue of mentorship that struck me most.

Spencer comments, “Not that celebrity culture is the only way we stay informed. But while women a hundred years and fifty ago got answers from elder women around them, it seems like we now look more toward public figures for instructions on how to live our lives.”  Why is that?  I suspect it’s something to do with access.

Much as we like to believe that our country and culture are fully democratic, they are far from it.  Attorneys jump to the front of courthouse lines to get their speeding tickets waved away.  Huge corporations with deep pockets wield disproportionate amounts of political power.  So called “legacy” offspring of alumns of prestigious universities are admitted with lesser qualifications than unconnected applicants.  Throughout our culture the well-heeled and well-connected have access to “better” of almost everything.

And so this leads us to look to the Paltrows and Albas for advice.  Aside from the whole affiliative desire that celebrities spark in us, we believe (and rightly so) that the routines and regimes they follow are reflective of better inputs than most of us have access to.  We want to know what they know.  Whether it’s a skincare regimen, a meal plan, a bedtime routine, or a time management tip – we want in on the secret, which isn’t necessarily a bad approach.

The catch, of course, is that these women’s lives are strikingly different from the lives of most American women.  They do not work in an office for eight hours a day.  They do not clean their own homes.  They may not even do their own grocery shopping.  This isn’t to say that their lives are charmed and free from the often-mundane aspects of normal family life (toddler tantrums, shedding dogs, picky eating, favorite pants are at the cleaners when you need them, etc.).  But it is to say that the parts of life where they have the resources and bandwidth to achieve the ideal, probably don’t align with mine.*  And for the parts of life where they are subject to the same trivialities of life that I am, their advice is probably no better than that of my best girlfriends.

This current celebrity fixation wasn’t always the case, of course.  I wonder what it would be like to live in a bygone era – an era when we didn’t have 24-hour access to (and obsession with) what Celebrity A wore to put gas in her car and what Celebrity B ate for breakfast.  I wonder what it would be like to live in an era when we looked primarily, or even exclusively, to women around us who have walked these paths before.

My mother participates in a group at her church called Project Day.  Once a month women gather together and sew shirts, receiving blankets, and other baby essentials for the church’s mission in Africa.  My mother is in her mid-60s and is, by at least ten years, the youngest member of the group.  She loves participating in Project Day because of the perspective these women provide.  She marvels at all that they’ve been through.  “There is nothing this group hasn’t experienced,” she has told me.  The loss of a spouse or a child.  The birth of a grandchild or great-grandchild.  Cancer.  Conquering a long-standing fear.  Remarriage.  The betrayal of a friend.  Arthritis.  Cataracts.  70th, 80th, and 90th birthdays.  Some of their advice may be dated, but their perspective is not.  They have traveled through the forests of younger years and can see those trees clearly now from the meadow on the other side.

There is value in a shared experience.  There is a comfort and a bond from going through something together.  This is why my closest girlfriends and I relish in the opportunity to trade war stories (both the ones where we win and the ones where we lose).  We know that we are not going it alone.  But there is also value in the perspective of someone who traveled this path before you and can warn you of the places where you might trip, and assure you that the bloody scrape on your knee right now will heal soon and be nothing more than a memory in due time.

In a way, women who have gone before us have a level of access that no amount of money or privilege can buy.  They have access to a lifetime’s worth of experiences.  And the value of that is immeasurable.

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*The flip side of this coin, of course, is scrutiny.  These women have to pursue the ideal when it comes to their appearances because their livelihood depends on it.  I am sure there are many days when women who have to maintain unreasonable levels of perfection all the time wish that they could go for a week without someone judging their value based on their looks alone.

Everything’s a Phase

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

The other night JDP lolly-gagged contentedly in the bathtub.  His brothers were already bathed and jammied, and he was happy to be in the tub alone without anyone to steal his toy boats and trucks, so I let him take his time in the bath while I changed our sheets in the room next door.  At one point his babbles and splashes settled down and I quickly went in to check on him and found him lying on his back in the tub, completely relaxed, holding a toy boat above his head and turning it over in his hands.  He was so happy.

This was a noteworthy moment because just a few weeks ago every bath was a battle.  For reasons that we were never able to determine, sometime in late April JDP decided that baths were on par with waterboarding and threw a commensurate fit every time we filled the tub.  This lasted for about a month, and then suddenly it was over.

The experience of raising children is probably unrivaled in its ability to impress upon you that nothing lasts.  Neither diapers nor tantrums.  Neither Boppy naps nor toddler vocab (the cutest words ever spoken come out of the mouths of 18-month-olds).  For better and worse, they all come and go.  And based on our limited tenure so far I would say that raising an adopted toddler even further heightens that truth.  They have so much to process, and yet they have so few means to do so.  And so, absent the ability to say something self-aware and coherent about it (such as, “You know, Mom, remember like three weeks ago when X happened at bath time?  Well it really freaked me out and I’m having some trouble getting past it.  Could you talk it through with me?”), they throw a fit.  And perhaps they even throw the same fit every other night at bath time for a solid month.  And then, poof, they’ve moved on.  What was once perceived as a torture chamber is now considered the best possible respite from the stresses of toddlerhood.  Voila!  Time heals all bath hatred.

That night after putting JDP to bed I went downstairs and told my husband about The Happy Bath and marveled at it.  All the hangups were just… gone.  “EVERYTHING is temporary,” I told him.  And that got me to thinking about how true that statement is in all aspects of life.

It is true of the friends whose lives go in different directions.  It was true of many old classmates.  It was true of the car I drove and loved for nine years after college.  It is true of the miserable boss or antagonizing coworker (I’ve had my share of each).  It is also true of the wonderful, mentoring boss and the fun, collaborative coworkers (thankfully I’ve had those too).  It is true of neighbors and homes and restaurants.  When we look at the list of things and people in our lives that are truly permanent – the ones that will be with us ten or 20 years from now – it’s a surprisingly short list.  The people in my life who are permanent include my and GAP’s parents, siblings, and their children, and a few key friends whose presence in our life transcends logistics or phases.  We will not live in our current house forever (which means that we will not live two blocks from our favorite pizza place forever).  We will not have our amazing dogs forever.  We will not have to travel with sippy cups and Pack N Plays forever.  Our kisses will not heal our children’s wounds forever.

It both breaks and warms my heart to recognize that everything is temporary.  Everything’s a phase.

GAP is not one for keepsakes, but I am.  When we first started traveling together it took me a while to explain to him why a memory itself isn’t enough; why I needed an object to embody it.  Most of life’s experiences are fleeting, but tangible representations of those moments can be more enduring.  I like to look at, and hold, and feel things that take me back to a particular place in my life.  They help me carry with me the moments that I can’t actually carry with me.

Sitting on my desk at home are a horseshoe, a coffee mug, and a lacquered box.  But they are not just a horseshoe, a coffee mug, and a lacquered box.  They are reminders of a place or time that I do not want to forget – a phase of my life that is gone.  Almost.  But not quite.

Happiness Is More Than a Rolls Royce

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

As I ushered the little boys (as JDP and SSP have been termed in our family) out onto the church playground after collecting them from the nursery we approached two much older boys (probably nine or ten) who were playing some sort of game with a disconnected tether ball.  While we waited briefly for a break in their game to walk through I heard Boy #1 say to Boy #2, “You can be a skin doctor, or you can be a heart doctor.  You make a lot of money as a heart doctor.  You can buy a Rolls Royce if you’re a heart doctor.”  I cringed when I heard it and we quickly traipsed through their game. 

I find it sad to hear grade school kids already vying for careers that will put them in a particular tax bracket.  And yet, I know that by age ten I was well aware of who had money, who didn’t, and how its presence or lack thereof shook out in the playground pecking order.  So I don’t suppose I should have been surprised that these two boys (one of whose father is in fact a physician) would be just as aware of it as I was at the same age.  Money is an easy way for kids to measure the merits of a career.  Things like whether a job is engaging, challenging, rewarding, satisfying, or meaningful to the greater good are much harder to evaluate for yourself and to communicate to other people.  It’s much simpler just to make a lot of money and drive around in your Rolls Royce, isn’t it?

I thought about this moment again yesterday morning as my buddies at NPR told me that there is now a course in China for the offspring of billionaires and other very wealthy parents.  It is run by China Britain Financial Education, has been dubbed a “mini-MBA” and focuses on teaching these kids – who will likely never have to work – how to do things like raise money for charity.*  These children are clearly very aware of their privileged circumstances, as evidenced by one girl’s response to the question of what her ideal future would be.  She responded, “I want to become a princess. I want to have a castle, and I will have lots of servants. I won’t do anything, because I’ve got lots of money, so I just buy whatever I want.”

The NPR piece goes on to explain that large scale wealth (China now has the world’s second-highest number of billionaires after the U.S.) is a relatively new phenomenon, and that the incredible focus on money (described as the “be all and end all in modern day China”) has created something of a morality vacuum which is present at all points along the socioeconomic spectrum.    Paul Huang, head of R&D at China Britain Financial Education comments that “For the wealthy family, their problem is they don’t know and don’t care where money comes from, and they spend money in a disgusting way to other people.  For children from poor families, when they grow up, they try to do anything to get money. They don’t think it’s right or wrong. That’s another problem.” 

Presumably if you’re reading this blog you’re an adult.  And if you’re adult you probably know someone who is wealthy and miserable.  You probably also know someone who is scraping by and yet lives a full and happy life.  If you’re an adult you probably know well enough that money is not a one-way ticket to happiness.  I do not begin to deny that money can accomplish all sorts of wonderful things.  It can eliminate the incredible stress brought on by things like unpaid bills, cars that break down, lack of health insurance, or untended home repairs.  It can also add immense pleasure to life by enabling things like vacations, date nights, pedicures, or a new tube of lipstick even though you don’t need it.  So yes, money is certainly a big contributor to happiness.  But it is only one component of a happy life.  Other factors include meaningful work, physical health, satisfying friendships, a strong support network, and enriching interests and hobbies.  In actuality, this is a much taller order than mere wealth.   Kids don’t see that, though.  They see castles and servants and Rolls Royces. 

I would be lying if I said that earning potential wasn’t a factor in my choice of career.  (If it weren’t I’d probably be a horse trainer of some kind.)  But it wasn’t the only factor.  I also wanted a career that would allow me to help people in some way.  I wanted a career that would be intellectually stimulating.  And I wanted a career that would be compatible with my family life.  I have a career that meets all of those needs and I am grateful that I wake up every day in a life that makes me very happy.  I wouldn’t take a Rolls Royce today if one were parked in my driveway because I couldn’t fit all of my kids in it.    

Back to the boys on the church playground.  Someday my boys will be in that same position, bouncing a ball on a playground and puffing up their little chests about what they want to be when they grow up.  Right now they are four, two, and one.  The little boys have no concept of money whatsoever.  IEP’s conception of it is vague at best.  But I know that window is closing, and probably by first grade he will be well aware of the markers of money.  And when that day comes I will work to impart upon him (and the little boys in time) that money is just money, and the only thing that matters is what you do with it.  By and large, you will be happy when you decide to be, not when you have a Rolls Royce. 

*The great irony of this is, of course, that it bears absolutely no resemblance, even on a kiddie scale, to an actual MBA.

Bright, Shiny Moments

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Yesterday morning I boarded a flight for my first business trip in more than two-and-a-half years.  And while I was sad to leave my boys behind for a couple of days, there was a certain excitement about the fresh start implicit in this trip.  As I neared the end of the jetway I saw the sun glinting off of the silver body of the airplane, through the dingy window of the jetway, and straight into my eyes.  It seemed fitting for the moment.  I felt bright and shiny.

It made me think about my first flight.  I was eleven years old and we were flying to Southern California to visit my aunt and uncle, go to Disneyland, drive up the coast, and experience the wilds of  the coast.  My excitment for the trip was huge as there were near countless things to look forward to.  But my excitment for the flight was particularly intense.  Most of my friends had flown somehwere before, so there was the eagerness to shed my self-consciousness at not having done.  But in my mind, whether from movies or books or stories from somewhere, flying was a glamorous thing to do.  I wore a dress because I couldn’t stomach the thought of not dressing up for my flight.  And when we reached the gate area I ran into a friend from summer camp, making me feel very worldly, and our parents swapped seats so that she and I could sit together.  It was a big day.

As I made this little trip back in time it dawned on me that none of my sons will have any recollection of their first flight.  IEP and SSP were both roughly 10 weeks old when we flew to visit my parents during my maternity leaves.  JDP was just shy of his second birthday when he flew home from Korea.  They will never remember those moments.  Further, they will never remember a time when boarding a flight was something exciting (the flight itself, that is - not just the destination at the other end).  It made me a little sad.  But then, why should it?

I don’t remember my first ride in a car, and I feel no nostagic hole where that memory should go.  I’m sure that when I was about two days old I was loaded up into a car and driven home from the hospital.  And I’m sure that I’ve ridden in a car nearly every day since.  A car ride doesn’t need to be something exciting for me.  Perhaps the same is true of my kids and air travel.  Perhaps my sense of loss over a memory that will never exist for them is a bit like someone much older feeling regret that I don’t have memories of my first call on a touch-tone phone.  Some things don’t hold the same meaning for one generation as they did for an earlier geneartion.

When you get down to it I think the thing that matters is not the excitement for boarding a plane.  What matters is the excitement at a big moment in your life.  For me, because I was old enough to have built up a great amount of anticipation around that flight it was a big moment.  This morning, because I’m excited about my new job and the opportunity it holds, my first trip with this company was a big moment.  As long as my kids still get excited about big moments – anticipate them, relish in them, and never take them for granted –  then I think we’re probably doing okay.  For me, my first flight was a big moment.  For them it wasn’t.  But something else will be.

Please Write to Your Representative

Friday, December 14th, 2012

This is the letter I just wrote to my congressman and senators.  Please feel free to copy, paste, and use it to write to yours.  You can find your representative’s website and contact form here.  You can find your senators’ websites and contact forms here.

Dear Mr. _______,

I am not unique. And that is exactly why I am important.

I am one of millions of American parents who want stricter gun laws. I want for my children to go to movies, and shop for Christmas presents, and attend school without the risk of being mowed down by semi-automatic gunfire. I want to kiss them goodbye in the morning without fearing it will be for the last time. I want to raise them in a society that protects their rights more fiercely than the rights of those who might harm them.

There is no excuse for this kind of carnage. No amendment is worth this price. I am heartbroken, but I am also ashamed. And until our government can fix this hideous and inexcusable crisis, we should all carry our shame with our grief.

I beg of you to work with your fellow Congressmen and Congresswomen to take up the mantle of gun control, and not rest until it is resolved.

Very sincerely,
Gale P.

A Springboard to Accomplishment

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

When we are being honest we will admit that our culture isn’t perfect.  This is true of every culture on the planet.  We all have our strengths, but we also have our weaknesses.  And unless we are willing to cop to those weaknesses, they will continue to plague us.  I started thinking about this yesterday after listening to this piece on Morning Edition about Eastern vs. Western perspectives on struggle.

The piece begins with a poignant description of a fourth grade classroom in Japan.  As the children are being taught to draw three-dimensional cubes on two-dimensional paper it is the child who is having the most trouble with the lesson who is selected to do his work on the board.  Reporter Alix Spiegel aptly notes that in the U.S. this would be considered cruel and unusual.  We would never want to publicly humiliate a child by announcing his failure to grasp the material.

In the Japanese classroom, though, the reaction is vastly different.  As the child fails to get it right and repeatedly keeps trying, the other students patiently wait (apparently without any kind of teasing or mockery – that alone impressed me a great deal) until he finally mastered the cube, at which point his fellow students broke out into applause.  In Eastern cultures this kind of struggle is part and parcel of the learning process; something to be embraced and conquered rather than a source of shame or inadequacy.

My children are growing up smack dab in the middle of America.  We’re doing our best to expose our kids to a variety of cultures, and to help them understand at a core level that there are lots of different approaches to life.  The fact remains, though, that in this part of the country long-standing cultural norms are strong and not often diluted by influences from other cultures.  We will have to work hard to infiltrate those norms with awareness of different paths.  This may be easy enough when another culture’s way of doing something is more fun or interesting.  But getting kids to sign up for more struggle is going to be a tough sell.

Already IEP is reluctant to keep after something that he finds tricky.  When a sweater sleeve gets turned wrong-side out he comes to me to right it.  When he gets to the final few bites of oatmeal in the bottom of the bowl he asks for help in scooping them out.  And far too often (work- and school-day mornings do not lend themselves to embracing struggle…) I oblige him.  There are times, though, when I decline.  When he can’t find a puzzle piece and wants me to help him look.  When he turns a backwards shirt around on his own because I’m in the shower.  When he cuts his food with the side of his fork because I’m busy feeding his brother.  And in these situations, when he figures it out for himself, his pride and satisfaction are palpable.

I try in these moments to point out to him how capable he is, and how good it feels to do something successfully even though it was hard.  I think I need to step back even further, though.  Explaining to a four-year-old in abstract terms that “Isn’t it nice to have a genuine sense of accomplishment?” won’t get us to a place where he fully embraces struggle as a part of learning.  We are all steeped in the belief that it is superior to find things easy in the first place, rather than to conquer things that are hard.  Overcoming that belief will require us all to experience firsthand the value of the struggle.

Struggle is uncomfortable for most of us.  We don’t see it as the springboard to accomplishment.  But perhaps with time - and some struggle itself – we can.

Eleven Months

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

SSP turned eleven months old last week.  And he’s dangerously close to becoming a toddler.

Watching him transition out of babyhood is harder this time around because I know we will never have another baby.  All of these wonderful things that babies do at this age are passing through our lives for the last time.  The quintessential baby crawls.  The grasping for Cheerios and missing.  The coos and the babbling.  The frenetic flailing of arms when he gets excited.  The “boops” to noses and cheeks.  The curling up on a Boppy pillow to nurse before bedtime.  We will never be here again.

Lately I find myself taken aback almost daily.  SSP is shedding his infancy faster than I like to admit.  He’s starting to take steps while holding onto our fingers.  He stands for seconds at a time before he realizes he’s not holding on to anything.  He can follow simple instructions like “wave” or “put your feet down” or “don’t touch that.”  And I can tell that his little baby babbles are in their final throes, on the cusp of turning into actual words.

When IEP turned eleven months old I was mostly sad at the premise of weaning him.  But this time it is so much bigger.  I feel like I’m weaning myself now, saying goodbye to this phase of my children’s lives for the last time.  Of course I know that there are wonderful things on the horizon: first words and hugs and kisses; silly games in the bathtub and countless bedtime stories; funny observations and increased amazement at the world around him.

And I can’t wait for all of those things.  But they won’t stop me from missing the days when I walked into a room and SSP would crawl all the way across it in five seconds, perch on his knees at my feet, and stretch his arms up to me until I bent over to scoop him into mine.  Because right now there are few things I love as much.

The End. The Beginning.

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Today is IEP’s last day of freedom.

I make it sound so foreboding, don’t I?  I don’t mean to.  Honestly, I shouldn’t.  The thing that awaits him tomorrow?  It’s his first day of school, which, when you get right down to it is one of the most wonderful things that will ever happen to him.  It will open the doors to learning and friendships and adventures of all stripes.  Truly, I am excited for him.  He is excited.  We are all excited.

With each rite of passage, though, we leave something behind.  In this case it’s the very last vestige of his babyhood, and that (at least for me) is not without some sadness.  No longer will he play in his pajamas while I get ready for work.  No longer will he get to look at Nanny when she arrives and proclaim, “I want to go to the Science Center today,” (as he did just yesterday).  And most of all, no longer will each day be his blank slate to fill with nearly anything of his choosing.  It is the end of something.

It is also the beginning of something.  Starting school is a happy occasion.  It is also a privilege.  But there will likely come a day when it will be a chore; when IEP will long to stay home in his pajamas doing the 7th grade equivalent of spending the morning playing with his toy trains.  When that day does come I will think back on this time in his life, on how unencumbered it was by responsibility or obligation.  And perhaps there will be a day here and there when I indulge him.  Perhaps there will be a day here and there when I try to recreate for him the joys and freedoms of being three years old.

This morning was like most others.  There was breakfast in the sunroom.  There was a long walk with the boys in the double jogger and the dogs on either side.  There was the instruction that it is IEP’s “very important job” to make sure that his bed is made and that he is dressed before Nanny gets here.  It’s a routine we’ve been practicing for weeks in preparation for this very moment.  We are ready.  But even though we’re ready – or more adroitly, even though he is ready – I am not entirely ready.  That, though, is the tricky, slippery, unwieldy thing about raising kids.  They continue growing up whether we’re ready or not.  I’m still a relatively green parent, but I’d be willing to wager that I’ll never be entirely ready, and that each new phase will come accompanied by a silent internal chorus of, “But I’m not ready yet!”  I will sing the chorus to myself over and over and over, and it won’t change a thing.

IEP hasn’t been a baby for some time now.  Starting tomorrow I won’t be able to fool even myself anymore.

Symmetry

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

IEP, nine months old

My baby hit double digits recently.  He’s now ten months old.  A strange milestone, perhaps (past nine months, but not yet a year), but one that resonates with me.

When IEP turned 10 months it was right after my birthday, and just before my sister’s one year anniversary.  I spent that day filled with memories of what my life had been like one year prior – 7 months pregnant, having a low-key Chinese dinner with GAP to celebrate my birthday, and being the sole bridesmaid in my sister’s beautiful wedding.  I was struck by how vastly different my life had become in the course of a year.

Now SSP has crossed that threshold and again I am haunted by a certain nostalgia, although of a slightly different nature.

Yes, I have paused to reflect on how much things have changed in a year – we just returned from the same Colorado vacation that we took last year and this time I carried SSP in a backpack for the exact same hike on which last summer I carried him inside me.  But more than that I am struck by how I am walking back through the tracks I created three years ago.  Two boys.  Both autumn babies.  Hitting the same milestones at the same times of year.

SSP, nine months old

SSP wears the same pajamas that his brother wore.  He sleeps in the same position.  He plays the same games and does the same baby tricks.  His birthday is three weeks earlier in the year than his brother’s, so his milestones sometime sneak up on me.  I catch myself thinking, “You’re not supposed to do that until next month.”  But he does them in his own time, just like IEP did.  I shouldn’t be surprised, though, because I’ve learned by now that all these things repeat themselves.

Still, sometimes the symmetry of it all is just too much to bear.