I’ve been doing a lot of giving lately. ’Tis the season, right? But I’m not talking about gift cards to Outback Steakhouse or the “I saw this sweater and thought of you” type of giving. You see, just about two weeks ago, my wife Kim gave birth to our second child, a baby boy named Ben. (Welcome, Ben!) Most of my time has been donated to help with diapers, feedings, cooking, cleaning, and absorbing the attention of a needy three-year-old big sister. I give as much as I can and take sleep when I can get it.
Anybody who has kids knows this routine. The first month (or more) can be hell. You give and give and give, while holding up any gas-induced smile as real proof that this little being is truly appreciative of your unceasing effort. (It’s not, but it’s imperative to pretend that it is.)
Before Kim and I had our first child, many people warned us that we’d eventually succumb to Adultitis once we became parents. They assured us that kids were the undisputed CAUSE of Adultitis. We weren’t so sure, so we kept weekly journals throughout our entire first year of parenthood in order to stay mindful of our battle with the "Big A." The process was fascinating, and eventually turned into a book that just so happened to come into the world at about the same time as little Ben. (Welcome, book!) When the boxes of them arrived from the printer, I opened one and landed on an entry I wrote six months into my first parenting foray. Here it is in its entirety: * * * *
My best friend’s sister just had a baby. We’ve been hearing a lot of stories about the new parents, including the standard late nights and issues with feeding and pumping. It seems like all babies have some sort of dilemma to deal with at the beginning, something that usually overly concerns the parents, especially new ones. The “issue” varies from kid to kid, but the fact that there usually IS one is normal.
Anyway, hearing their stories took me back to our first days. I couldn’t believe how much I’d already forgotten about that first month. How hard it was. And nerve-wracking. And tiring. Believe me, a six-month-old is no walk in the park, but I’d take it over a six-day-old any time (as far as the work part is concerned).
I suppose the forgetfulness is God’s little way of keeping the human race going. It’s hard to imagine anyone putting themselves though the trauma of labor and the first few weeks again if it weren’t for the memory fading a bit. Happily, the good memories remain, and the unpleasant ones lessen in their intensity.
But the real point I want to make, especially if you are a new parent-to-be or a freshly minted mom or dad going through this period we call boot camp, is this: There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It gets better. And easier. I know, it’s a small consolation if you’re smack dab in the middle of it, but it’s true.
The work is hard, but the rewards are great. I already miss the early days when Lucy was that small – sweet and helpless and awesomely new.
I miss those days enough that I’m beginning to consider the prospect of going through it again. Eventually.
* * * * I intended for that journal entry to be a ray of hope to other moms and dads. Little did I know I was also writing to myself.
Re-reading it has helped me to remember that although giving is always part of the gig, it will not always be this taxing. And it reminded me to pay attention to the little gifts I get along the way: Feeding my new son under the glow of the Christmas tree, the smell of his little fuzzy head, and the irresistible grunts and squeaks that only newborns can make. Indeed, giving always rewards the giver in unexpected and bountiful ways.
That’s how giving works.