Yes, it’s true. It’s been quite some time since I last reflected on what many believe to be “The Joys of Parenting.” Since I’ve last written, I’ve struggled with adopting the idea that the phrase “The Joys of Parenting” is either a big inside joke, or something that a poor sap under the influence of some kind of illegal substance had conjured up. “Joys?? Bah!!”
As our son Will turns 3 months on January 1st, I have been struggling with the notion that I make a terrible parent. Like Kryptonite brings the mighty Superman to his knees, the shrills and shrieks and demanding squeals of my wee little one break down my very being nearly every time he loses his nerve…. loses HIS nerve and disintegrates MINE!
I know my limits. I’m not too prideful to admit my faults. I know what I can and cannot do. I cannot bear the screams of an infant. I feel zero sympathy for that tensed up face with droplets of water just barely squeaking through those kung fu-gripped eyelids… or that toothless mouth agape in anguish… because, in the end, I know that it’s this little creature’s desperate attempt to alert anyone nearby that it has needs. Needs to be fed, needs to sleep, needs to poop, needs to pass gas, needs to spit up, needs to not be tossed out the front door by a father missing the adequate amount of patience.
Granted, I haven’t tossed William out the front door and into the cold. Well, not yet at least.
The truth is, my son’s most desperate cries cause physical pain in my ears. I don’t know if it’s because I attended one too many concerts throughout my teens and twenties without using earplugs, or that he just has a uniquely unappealing cry, but it literally hurts when this boy loses it. And like an injured animal, I get defensive and frustrated when I am inflicted pain upon by another person… which apparently includes my 3 month old squirt of a kid.
I know this is a problem. It’s to the point that when I need to tend to this noise box of a child, I have to keep sound-isolating earbuds on hand and loud music so I can drown out his screams and still care for him with compassion. I have a distinct memory of a time about a month or so ago when Amy left me alone with Will. I was next door to his nursery at my desk when he began to lose it. I plugged up my ears quickly, turned on some loud rock music and walked in to pick him up. As I cradled the little guy in my arms, I heard nothing coming from that red-faced image of anguish. And when those little tears started to leak from his scrunched face, I ACTUALLY felt bad for the little guy. It’s probably a pathetic story and proof I’m the worst father ever, but it was a tool that helped me get the parental job done without losing my cool. I know my boundaries and that I have to work with them to accomplish what needs to be done.
This week, some of my greatest fears were realized when Amy returned to her full-time job as a nurse in an operating room. We’d decided it’d be best for all three of us if she goes back only part time — three days a week instead of five — and so, this past Tuesday was the first day she was leaving little Will in my care.
Over the weekend, I’d sorta had my nerves crushed by a crying fit of his, so we knew I couldn’t survive a full day with him on my own. Mr. Mom needed help. So my own mom valiantly stepped up to accompany me through the beginning of this journey. Having done this twice before over thirty years ago with myself and my older brother, my mom has had plenty of experience with babies. Plus… she DID desperately what grandchildren, after all! 🙂
We still felt somewhat clueless as we tried to read Will’s cries and meet his needs while somehow also managing to get work done. It was a frantic first day, and one that ended quite ugly with a relentless crying fit from the Subject of our caretaking.
Today was a different story. We got an early start as Amy left for work once again, and managed to keep Will fed and mostly content until we strapped the kid into a car seat and dragged him off to lunch with “Grandpa” meeting us at a local hibachi grill (mmmm!). Will slept like a champ the entire time and when we returned home, he stayed sleeping somewhat soundly for almost a total of four hours. It was a “New Years” miracle no doubt!
I never could imagine parenting as a kid. It sounded like the Game of Life or “playing house” to me as a child. You just have kids because you’re supposed to. I never imagined just what kind of challenges and extreme life changes all this could bring, so each day is a surprise and a new experience. Each smile Will gives us is a step in the direction of accepting this new adventure… even if every crying game is a step or half a step back!
So here begins the Mr. Mom Chronicles… I’m in for an interesting experience indeed!
…and so is Will