Friday, November 11, 2011

A Dad All Over Again

Several weeks ago Amelia suggested that I write a blog to record my thoughts surrounding the birth of our son, Jack, so that we could remember the experience of welcoming a son into our family.  I started the entry almost immediately, but haven't worked on it since that day.  I have been meaning to finish it this past week but something always took precedence - playing with Lilly or rocking with Jack to get him to sleep, or just good old laziness.  So I targeted today as a good day to get it done.  For one, it is Veteran's Day, a day that is special because we honor our veterans, and also because it seems to be the only holiday that I have off from work that most others do not.  Also, interestingly, but not really, it's 11/11/11.  And finally, it's Jack's one month birthday.  Maybe that should have been first.  Anyway, the point is, I figured I'd work the conclusion of the blog entry into the day somewhere.

We had a great leisurely morning - lots of coffee and apple juice.  Amelia made it out to the mall to run some errands while Jack slept and Lilly and I built a Duplo train station, played in tents and even pretended to be sleeping for about 10 minutes (an amazing game for actually getting sleep).  Amelia came home and we had lunch, then we put Jack and Lilly down for their naps.  I should have been industrious and finished the blog then, but I opted to enjoy the peace and quiet by chatting with Amelia and doing various odd chores that had built up over the week.  Before we knew it a few hours had passed and Lilly and Jack were coming back to life.  My dad called to catch up, and while on the phone with him, my mom called on Skype.  I said good bye to my dad and went to join Amelia at the computer.  I had Lilly on my lap as we all talked, and she was restless as always.  She climbed up my stomach to do a summersault for Meme and as she completed the flip she bounced up with a look of shock on her face.  She looked at, and then pointed to, her elbow while wincing in pain.  I took her arm in my hand and it flopped about like jello.  I looked at Amelia and then my mom on the screen and stammered that I thought it was dislocated.  My mom, like a mom, started giving sage advice on what to do.  And Amelia, like a mom, instinctively took Lilly into her lap, immobilized her arm to stop the pain, and gave her a calming cuddle.  After we (I) gained our (my) composure we tried to pop it back in, but no luck.

So off Lilly and I went to the hospital.  She was amazing.  We waited patiently in the waiting room until it was our turn.  We went into the triage room after about an hour of reading books and debating whether the fish in the fish tank possibly knew Nemo and Dorry personally.  The doctor and nurse each introduced themselves.  Lilly introduced herself and took the honor of introducing me as well. In fact, Lilly did most of the talking the whole 5 minutes we were in there.  The doctor asked what happened.  Lilly recalled that, "she popped her elbow while doing a summersault on Daddy."  The doctor asked if her elbow hurt.  Lilly replied that, "it really hurts a lot, I'm sick."  The doctor asked if she could take off her jacket so he could look at it.  Lilly said, "oh yeah, of course."  As I gingerly unzipped her jacket to show the elbow, she took the opportunity to stretch the arm that had been tucked next to her side for quite some time and pushed it all the way up into the air over head, and then twisted it over my shoulder and around my neck.  She then looked up at the doctor, ready to be examined.  The doctor kindly smiled at me, then at the nurse, then at Lilly.  He took her elbow and moved it back and forth for about two seconds.  He asked her how it felt now.  She triumphantly declared, "it feels great!"  A minor miracle in Stamford Hospital, and I witnessed it.  I have no doubt that when it happened the elbow was dislocated and she was in pain.  I have no doubt that the elbow popped itself back in at some point before the doctor touched it.   I also have no doubt that my clever little two year old has watched enough 'Olivia' and read enough 'Miffy Goes To The Hospital' to know how to play the part of a patient.  She received 2 stickers for her effort.  I thanked the doctor and complimented him on his skill in medicine.  Off we went to head back home, but not before taking a detour to Nonna's to pick up a cheese pizza for a much delayed dinner.

I know from my extensive research and reading on child rearing that things like popped elbows in children often pop back in themselves in due time.  Of course we could have waited to let it possibly fix itself at home, but seeing her that way, I just wanted to immediately remedy the situation, especially since I felt responsible for the failed summersault.  (We're going to have to work on our mechanics tomorrow.)  In the grand scheme of things, I know this wasn't a major crisis, that Lilly was going to be okay one way or another at all times.  But as I sat there in the waiting room, running through worst case scenarios in my head, I was no less reminded of how much I love my daughter, my new son, and especially my wife, and how respecting and proving that love means that I would do anything to protect them and shield them from anything less than the happy life they each deserve.  In light of this crash course refresher on perspective, the trip to the emergency room and the copay exchanged for stickers was well worth it, ten times over.  What better outcome could I have asked for?

And so, I'm back to the original task of concluding my post on Jack.  It's almost the end of the day and I'm now just beginning to write.  I'm sure there's a lesson on procrastination in there somewhere, but I'll put off the exploration of that till another day.

Here's the finished product.

Just when I thought I had everything figured out about being a dad… Jack came long.  I had really hit my stride with Lilly.  She and I were making strong progress with our water coloring technique.  We’d created dozens of fridge-worthy masterpieces in the Disney Princesses coloring book.  And lately we were on fire pairing the right high-heeled shoes with the flashiest sequin tutu’s in her dress up collection.  
Of course I knew the entire time Amelia was pregnant that there was a 50% chance we’d have a boy.  And I truly didn’t feel a bias toward one or the other in the 41 weeks leading up to Jack’s arrival.  But that made it no less of a total surprise when I saw him for the first time and immediately made the distinction concerning gender.  
I was overflowing with pride and joy.  Complete pride in my amazing wife for once again having made nine months of pregnancy a beautiful and special time in our life together, and in her incredible strength during delivery that will forever leave me in awe of her grace and resolve.   Complete joy in seeing a perfect addition to our family of three, and knowing that Amelia and I would for the rest of our lives have a son, and Lilly a little brother.
However, as I mentioned, I find myself back at square one as a dad trying to figure out how to raise a newborn.  Being a boy does not automatically equip you to take care of a boy.  The most obvious difference between boy and girl newborns has already brought itself to the forefront.  Diaper changing has become a contact sport.   And right from the first attempt, I was on defense, shielding myself from the poorly chosen location in which I was standing.   I like to think of myself as a quick learner, but I’ve still somehow not entirely figured out his offensive scheme, and it looks to be a long season ahead unless I can shape up.  
The ‘newborn cry’ also has me off my game.  I think now that Lilly is a bit older and her days in the swaddle are far removed, I romanticize that she never cried much.  But wow do the memories of the nights dancing and rocking her to sleep come flooding back as soon as Jack gets up to pitch!  It’s not that Jack cries an abnormal amount or anything (in fact, I think we are getting off easy so far in the ‘sleep deprived nights’ category), most of his cries are the usual hunger cry or need a diaper change cry.  But occasionally there is that ‘next level’ cry that usually comes for no particular reason, and it almost always comes out of nowhere.  I am so wholly out of practice with how to respond and placate him.  I don’t know if it’s possible to ever be a pro at coping with it, but I know I survived with Lilly, and apparently even managed to forget it, so I am sure it will be no different this time around.  
Despite the adventurous diaper changes and occasional need for earmuffs, I could not be happier or have a bigger sense of fulfillment.  I am up to the task of raising a boy and embrace all the differences from raising a girl that I'm sure lie in waiting.  I’m shaking off the rust and remembering all the wonderful things about watching the first days and weeks of a new life - the incredibly small fingers, the permanently curled up legs, the tiny breaths, the smell.  Jack is the perfect contradiction of fragile and strong.  He relies on Amelia and me for everything, and yet comes into the world a complete person, just waiting to grow and reveal his personality.
I am remembering that as his dad it is my foremost duty to keep him safe and be a steward of his childhood.  I am here to make sure he gets to experience all the best parts of being a kid without the worry of life’s impending pressures that will eventually come to pass.  I take this duty seriously.  And as with Lilly, I think this principally means being completely unserious in most situations.  The moment I arrive home from work is the beginning of playtime.  A trip to the grocery store means riding in the front of the shopping cart.  Bed, Bath and Beyond is the ultimate venue for hide and go seek.  Bedtime should be drawn out as long as possible, and no matter how many how many warnings we get from mom, there is always time for one more book.
And so I look forward to each new day with Jack and the adventure of relearning what it is to be a dad.  I am excited to observe his first steps, first words, first day of school, first t-ball game and see how his life continuously unfolds.  He can be whatever he wants to be (so long as it includes being a Philly sports fan).  I will be here to support him and make sure that he knows that no matter what, he is loved – by his sister, grandparents, his aunts and uncles, his cousins, our friends – and especially by his parents.  

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