Thursday, February 27, 2014

"They Grow Up So Fast" and Other Truths

A little over two months ago, I had a baby.  One thing I have discovered about being a parent is that all the platitudes and cliches are true.  Everyone always says, "they grow up so fast, enjoy them while they are young."  They say, "The days are long but the years are short."  They say, "It's the best thing you'll ever do; your life will never be the same."  When I heard those things as a non-parent, and even while pregnant, I would think, "Well, of course."  I could appreciate the idea that children grow up fast--my niece and nephew seem feet taller every time I see them.  So, really, I always understood that these things were true--obvious even--and couldn't understand why everyone felt the need to repeat them endlessly.  Now I get it.  Not only are they true, but they are now central facts about my life.  I have a son.  He is growing.  Too fast.

This leads me to the other thing I have discovered about parenting--for every emotion, there is an equal and opposite emotion.  I feel my entire experience has become a paradox.  On the one hand, I am delighted that Nathan is growing so well--and by well, I mean almost off the charts.  After each doctor's visit, I call my mom and crow about how much weight he has gained.  I spend his awake time each day helping him learn to hold his head up, smile, reach for things, and we proudly show off his progress to Daddy when he gets home.  On the other hand, this is all entirely devastating--how can he change so fast?  And why can't I drink in each feature of his little person quickly enough, before it's gone and transformed into something else that will be equally wonderful, but not the same?  I wasn't prepared for the confusion of emotion that comes with parenting, and I wasn't prepared for the intensity either.  His sweet, slow smiles bring tears to my eyes, and (again, the paradoxes), his cry, moments after I put him down thinking he was asleep, pierces me like a red hot poker of despair.

Our days are pretty quiet, red hot pokers not withstanding.  Feeding, changing, dressing, playing, reading, singing, and napping (if I'm lucky).  He loves music, so I sing to him constantly--"This is the Day" for when he wakes up, "Alleluia" when he is going to sleep, and "Arky, Arky" and "This Little Light of Mine" in between.  My favorite is "Give Me Oil in My Lamp"--he likes it, I think, because it is quick and has some high notes; I like it because it is a true prayer for me--I need all the oil in my lamp I can get!  For books, we are liking Dr. Seuss and The Poky Little Puppy and Little Blue Truck.

I have been doing some reading myself, since it's something I can manage to do while he is feeding--at first, it took him upwards of 40 minutes to eat and he ate every two hours, so I had to have something to do!  He's become much more efficient now, taking only about 20 minutes, but I still sneak in some reading.  Over the past year, I have been working through my bookshelf, committed to reading all the books I own but have never read before.  In the process, I have made some wonderful discoveries and can't understand how I never got around to some of these books before.  Ironically, three of the books I have read have had to do with the coming of age of boys: Lloyd Alexander's Taran, Wanderer, Forrest Carter's The Education of Little Tree, and the one I finished today, T.H. White's The Once and Future King.  All of them sad, in a way (I read Little Tree just after Nathan was born and wept hot tears onto the top of his head at the end), but all good.

Knitting, cooking, and cleaning (and laundering cloth diapers!) round out the rest of my activities.  The knitting project is a sweater I started at the end of my pregnancy, and is by far the most advanced thing I have ever tried, but it is coming along pretty nicely, with beautiful grey tweed yarn I salvaged from another sweater.  I have been making lots of dishes using rotisserie chicken.  I hate cooking chicken, so having that part already taken care of is wonderful, and it is so easy to shred the chicken and use it in chicken salad or casseroles or soup, like the one pictured above, a new favorite: Moroccan Chicken Stew with couscous and zucchini and sweet potatoes.  We have been eating it with pita bread torn into triangles, slathered with olive oil and salt and toasted--oh my goodness, so crisp and chewy at the same time.

The days are long (and wonderful and exhausting)--but, they are good days.