Friday, August 17, 2007

Degree of Difficulty

So I caught up with a college buddy of mine over the phone this week.
He just had his second child, and his oldest is also about two; so he
was the perfect person to lament to about how grueling our parenting
experience has been so far. I went on and on about how much of a
handful Aaron is, and how much of a wreck Jada has been in terms of
her adjustment to having a little sibling. I couldn't wait for my
friend to say, "Yeah, me too," and then one-up me with his horror
stories. Misery really does love company, I guess; or maybe I just
wanted to know that we weren't an anomaly, but that it really is hard
to parent two.

Except that my friend didn't say, "Yeah, me too." Instead he
proceeded to tell me his newborn was sleeping like, well, a baby; and
that far from being jealous or thrown off, his oldest was loving
having a little baby around the house. He went on and on, just like I
did, except instead of complaints it was words of gratefulness that he
and his wife could be in the midst of such a precious time.

This, of course, annoyed me to no great end. Far from joining me in
my misery, my friend was (gasp!) reveling in his happiness. I had to
knock a little bit of the fogginess out of my head just to be able to
get my head around being happy for him and with him. Then we hung up
and I was left to contemplate that perhaps Amy and I are an anomaly,
that it isn't so hard to parent two and what in tarnation then is
happening in our household that makes life so gosh darn complicated.

I've decided that there are three pretty significant differences
between our situation and my friend's, which add to the degree of
difficulty of our transition. First, my friend's wife was pregnant,
which gave the two of them several months of physical evidence and
daily opportunities to explain to their oldest son that a baby was on
the way. While we did our best to explain things to Jada, we
definitely didn't do it nearly as often and we didn't have a growing
belly to point to (although we could show pictures, I suppose).

Second, my friend's baby arrived into their lives at age zero days.
Not to say that's not a trying age to parent, what with fears of
sickness and constant feedings. But a baby age zero days is content
with a life of feeding, sleeping, and changings, and sitting in his
carrier in between these events. Aaron, on the other hand, came to us
at five months and eighteen pounds, and being contained in a carrier
or a crib was soon completely unacceptable to him, necessitating that
watching him now means either holding him or keeping close watch as he
crawling and climbed around.

Finally, my friend, per the law, got five days of paternity leave, and
he took an additional five days of vacation during their adjustment to
being parents of two. That gave him two weeks straight of being home,
spelling his wife for night-time feedings, and basking in the glow of
their new arrival. For us, Aaron arrived on a Saturday night, and I
used a vacation day to take the next Monday off, and was back to work
on Tuesday.

Please don't misunderstand the tone of this post. I am,
fundamentally, just as grateful as my college buddy for the arrival of
Aaron. It's been a hard transition for all of us, but others have it
much, much harder. Amy's been outstanding in her service to me,
knowing I have to work eight plus hours a day; and other friends and
family have stepped up to serve. And of course Jada was going to have
her world rocked by Aaron's arrival; age two is exactly when you need
to learn that the world doesn't revolve around you.

Still, it was assuring to me to consider these differences between my
friend's situation and ours, and then to document them here. It's
easy for me, as a Type A dad, to assume that other dads are just
better than me, better than me at juggling everything or at supporting
their wives or at guiding their older daughters through big
transitions. Better to be reminded that I've had it harder than some
and easier than others in this transition, that I'm doing my best, and
that I really am ultimately grateful for the opportunity to do it at

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