Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ghost in the Machine

Looking back through my journals from last spring and posts from last summer, I am just now coming to realize the futility in saying, “I know I’ll do this,” or, “I know I’ll never do that,” when it comes to parenting. What prompted my look back was a comment made by a close friend, someone with two kids. He asked me, “So, are you guys taking any trips this summer?”

A little background: After his children were born, his wife was extremely reluctant to leave them for any amount of time. For nearly two years, one or both of them were always with the children. No nights out, no weekend getaways. When he told me this at the time, it seemed irrational to me – irrational and unthinkable. He didn’t disagree, but he didn’t seem too upset by the situation, either. I, on the other hand, felt sorry for him and a little grateful that Linda and I were still on our own, able to go anywhere we wanted, whenever we wanted, which we often did. It was rare that a month or two would go by without a weekend away. When I told Linda about it, she agreed with me completely. Then, of course, we got pregnant, and a few months in, the subject of going away came up. I mentioned how we should be thinking about who could watch our boy or girl when we went away for weekends. To my surprise, she said we should wait and see, that she wasn’t sure how she would feel once the baby arrived. Feeling a little abandoned, I silently hoped she would feel the same as I did, that getting away was essential, that time for just the two of us was necessary.

So here we are, with Violet a little over three months old, and my friend asked me this week, “So, are you guys taking any trips this summer?” and I said, “Probably not without Violet.” He reminded me of how I reacted when he first told me about his wife’s reluctance to leave the kids, and it surprised me, the realization of how my own perception has changed. What seemed irrational before Violet came along is now understandable. For better of for worse, the two of us won’t be going away without Violet anytime soon, and I’m surprised at how easily that idea sits in my head.

And that’s just one example of how my brain has been unexpectedly rewired. I sat at a table the other day, listening to a future mother talk about what she would and wouldn’t do when she had a child, and I couldn’t help but hear myself in her words. Maybe a better parent than I completely sticks to their parenting plans, but it seems to me that reality’s a little messier. We all have these ideas of what we will and won’t do when they plop the baby in our arms, show us to the hospital door, and wish us luck, but the one thing that most of us can’t avoid is the fact that the person who went into the hospital is not the person who leaves. And the person standing over the changing table at one month, is not the same person holding the bottle at three months. The demands, the smiles, and the responsibilities of a child will tweak even the most stubborn of thought processes, and I think that’s how it should be.

Still, it’s comforting to know that not all of my thoughts have been altered. Another friend called the other night and asked about going camping this summer. I wonder how Linda’s ideas about my going away have changed?

112 days old


  1. I think having a person you truly trust to watch your child makes a difference. I am very lucky to have my mom and know that she takes care of the kids almost exactly like I do. Getting away is absolutely essential for us. We actually stayed at a bed and breakfast when Liv was only 6 months old.
    With Ryan, I nursed for the entire first year (and I never pumped), but we went away right after that. Of course, I always saw my parents take vacations alone and it was just part of the way I was hard-wired :)

  2. Love Violet's pudgy picture!

  3. Jane - you are absolutely right - and the fact that we live in the boonies doesn't help. I remember my parents going out every Wednesday - it was just part of the routine. I'd like to think Linda and I will be there someday, but for now, we're good. We don't want to miss anything here.

    Amy - She has thicker arms than I do!