Saturday, October 30, 2010

Big Sister

Chloe wore her Big Sister shirt to daycare today. It's her favorite shirt, and she makes sure she reads it out to everyone she meets. But even when she's not wearing it, she makes sure everyone knows about her place in the family anyway. "I'm a big sister," she says. "Emily's my little sister."

Chloe's been finding it more difficult lately to lose so much of the time she's used to having with Mom. I think I've filled in relatively well, but though she likes being silly and goofy with Daddy, it's Mom's attention she's craving.

The last few days, Chloe's been telling me that Emily's my girl and that she's Mommy's girl. I'm not kidding, and I'd be lying if I didn't say it hurts a bit. But this is just her latest strategy for getting more time with Mom. When we go somewhere, she says, "Daddy, you put Emily in the car. Mommy puts me in the car." At night time it's, "Daddy, you take Emily so Mommy can get me ready for bed."

But what surprises me and makes me very proud is that Chloe is so good to Emily. She's smart. She knows darn well that Emily's needs are coming before hers right now, but she never seems to be angry with her. She's embraced Emily from the beginning. And as hard as it is for her to share her Mom with someone else, she's sincerely happy - no gleeful, to have a sister. All she wants to do is hold her, hug her, and kiss her. We have to watch that she doesn't smother Emily to death (or strangle her - she's fond of putting her hand around Emily's throat).

I can see how much Chloe longs to have someone in the family closer to her own age. She can't wait until Emily's a little older. It's funny, but Julie and I see more clearly now than we did before Emily came along what an only child might be missing. And I'm not making a judgment here. Life is full of trade-offs, and for every benefit there are drawbacks. Still, I'm glad these two will have each other to love, support and keep each other company - in childhood and in life.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Emily's smile

The most beautiful, disarming, engaging smile. It goes so well with her soft, gentle, inquisitive eyes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Surviving the witching hours and ghosts of the past

This week, for a few nights, Emily didn't sleep very well. She was also quite fussy in the evening. In and of itself, this is not unusual or anxiety provoking. She's six weeks past her due date, which is typically a fussy period for all babies. It will probably pass quickly. But for Julie, this sleeplessness has brought back the ghosts of past experience.

As I've said, Chloe was an extremely colicky baby, and Julie and I were first time parents just trying our best to keep our heads above water. I was working at the time. Looking back on it, there was no reason I couldn't have taken the time then that I'm taking now. I wish I had, but we hadn't even thought of it.

As it turned out, I stayed home many days anyway, despite feeling pressure at work. As difficulty became crisis, I tried to help in my typically male - typically Sutton way. I just wanted to identify the problems and fix them. I reassured Julie that everything would be fine, that the colic would pass. I got frustrated when she would say that she saw no end in sight, that Chloe would never stop crying, would never sleep. I'd say, "but of course she will. All babies do. It's just a matter of time."

The more she tried to express how she was feeling, the more I'd try to apply logic to help counter what I saw as irrational and counterproductive thinking. I was desperate to bring back the Julie I knew, to convince her that there was nothing to worry about, that it would all pass. Julie was desperate for me to listen.

I'd like to think that I was helpful and supportive during our darkest moments in the land of colic (an appropriate name for a fog of sleeplessness and chaos that we lived and breathed for weeks on end)and to some extent I know that I was. I did know enough to eventually recognize the real problems we were facing and to do everything possible to deal with them. But I could have done better sooner. Looking back on it, I know now that I was scared, but that I couldn't allow myself to acknowledge it at the time.

This time is different. Emily is starting to sleep better again, and Julie's fears haven't gotten the best of her. There were some fearful moments, but they've passed. No, this is unfair - fears don't pass, they are conquered. I once again began to fall into my typical pattern of trying to rationalize away the fear. But I also listened, and reminded Julie that I would be there with her this time, even if the worst were to transpire. I think just being present, all day and all night, has made the biggest difference, and for this reason alone, I'm happy to be right here and not somewhere else.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh, isn't she cute? I just love the eyes... I'll call you next spring when you can leave the house again.

I can't take Emily anywhere without somebody stopping us to fawn over her. It was the same with Chloe. In fact the younger she was, the more comments we'd get. Our first child still generates oohs and aahs from time to time, but nothing like when she was a drooling, crying food processor that cried lots, slept little and spoke not at all.

But despite all the fawning, the truth is that most people (close family excepted) didn't really want much to do with a baby. They just wanted to ooh and aah, tell you what a perfect little angel you have, and then get on with their lives. And who can blame them. What else are they expected to do? Parents can interact with a baby (albeit in a limited way) because they know the child so well. They know that the Jean Chretien-like smile they see today wasn't there yesterday, and that their child has started having an easier time passing gas. To parents this is all thrilling, to everyone else... not so much. For all of their fawning, I think that most people would give the nutrition label on their box of cereal more of their focus than someone else's baby. And so they should - there's more information to be gleaned from the cereal box.

So why do we fawn over babies so much if we really don't find them that interesting? Well, for one thing, parents expect it. With each word of praise for their child, we're confirming their own virility and the quality of the genes they've passed on. They even thank us for it. "Oh thank you, you're too kind - Yes, George and I do make beautiful babies, don't we." And just think of how many ugly babies you've fawned over. You had no choice. You wouldn't want to offend the parents or their gene pool.

But, of course, there's more to our gushing than this. Babies represent us at our most basic and innocent, and as close to perfect as we get. They are the latest products of the evolutionary process - the newest models, so to speak. And who doesn't want to drool over the newest model? But let's face it, our interest in someone else's baby goes no deeper than our interest in Justin Bieber or Obama's dog. They're cute, and usually well groomed.

This explains the phenomenon of "A Baby Story." For the longest time I couldn't understand what anyone could possibly see in this show. But now I get it. It's cute, at least for some people. And I guess that's as good a reason to tune in as any. And no wonder I didn't get the show. I don't get "People" magazine or "Entertainment Tonight" either. I've never been that interested in celebrities, other people's babies, the latest Justin Bieber, or someone else's dog. Hell, I find it painful talking to people I don't know at a party, because it's usually not worth the investment. I'm probably in the minority, but I'm not alone.