Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love is a Battlefield

I just read a great article that really hit home for me. The author reflects on questioning the love of his new baby son when asked, "Don't you just love your baby?" For the first few months the author wasn't totally sure if he felt "love" but as the article concludes he is getting used to the idea while having more success at being a father. This helps him realize his son is growing on him, which is often commonly called, indeed, Love.

What the writer goes through in the article -- colic, vomit, spousal arguments, etc. -- are normal aspects for new parents. It definitely was for us (and still is, in many cases). I learned a lot about myself in those first several months, things I've recounted in this space before. Most notably was my realization that I don't have very much patience, in general, and little toleration for my son's crying/screaming. The spousal arguments/debates continue to this day, though recently I've been trying harder to "tame the beast within" and pick battles better (with varying degrees of success, probably).

I do admit that I am not sure the "love" for my son flowed so easily as it is portrayed in films or by women. I was really pleased that he came out okay, especially since it was found he had a knot in his umbilical cord that could have posed problems had we waited any longer for his birth (he was deliver a week early via C-section). When I spent time with him right after his birth I felt really nervous and a bit sad for him because he was so upset (for obvious reasons). I wanted to really be there for him and comfort but didn't know how. "Love" is not the word I would have used, even at those early minutes with him. More like nervous excitement, at best, but the good kind. The next four days at the hospital, however, were the most challenging, defeating and draining days, as I figured I was well in over my head. A lot of the cliche "This isn't what I signed up for" was being tossed about, from what I remember.

The first three months or so are called "the mother's months" because the men don't have as much to do, really, as the women. Sure, we help out as much as possible, but we can't breastfeed, for one, and the baby needs/wants that mother-baby bonding a lot more in the early days. So while I liked my son and didn't mind putting the work in, I still wasn't "gaga" over him. It wasn't his fault, he just had a lot of baby issues I was dreading, like colic and a piercing scream instead of a cry. Even now when I hear new babies with these sweet little cries I get envious!

More recently, as our son moves head-first into two-dom, my feelings are much different. It didn't take long to really feel genuine love for the kid. Once you hear the first "dada" your heart has to melt. Now he really is communicative and I feel pretty confident in my abilities to care for any of his needs. I can feed him, clothe him, make him laugh, get him to sleep (or fall back asleep), sometimes even by myself, ha ha. He comes to me for certain things, but still wants mommy for others. When he awakes during the night with gas pains he cries out for mommy, and even when I pick him up to comfort him, he still cries for her. So while I'm useful, she will always be the go-to, the default parent. I'm okay with that, for the most part.

The other side of the coin is now he is testing us, almost daily. While he's practically described as an angel at daycare, he can be a beast at home, setting us up for his little tests of what he can get away with the most. His tantrums, like his screaming, make me want to flee the country, and my tendency is to just let him cry it out until he can communicate what he wants (which he can, he just chooses not to in this state). He's even prone to some drama, like when he pretends to have a headache with his hand on his forehead, while with the other hand he points to the freezer asking for an ice pack (which he then promptly puts in this mouth instead of his head -- a miracle cure!).

So, the bottom line is, he's definitely grown on me, and probably even more so than he thinks. I never pictured having a son with blond hair, but now I can't picture him with anything other than blond. I love his vocabulary (which is probably double what I believe it might be), how he feels the need to "cheers" his milk cup with us at dinner at least a dozen times, how he is able to see the moon in the sky no matter how faint or thin, how whenever I put soccer on the TV he yells "ball!". I love that he doesn't mind wearing hats, can't say "dog" but says "woof, woof" instead, says a version of the word "tattoo" if he sees me with my shirt off (I have tattoos), and just moved from "mama" to saying "mommy" after having started using "daddy" for a couple months now.

Don't I just love my baby? Well, yeah, I'd be crazy not to. (As long as he stops throwing his food!)