Life in the Baby Zone
The Initiation of Parenthood
This is the first post to my new Witches and Pagans blog. Because I am a parent to a 6 month-old tyrant who owns me body and soul, it took me a while to finish. I thought that twenty years of working with lawyers would prepare me for my new career of wiping asses and answering shrieking demands. I had no idea. Dealing with an infant isn't like dealing with a surly partner on a deadline. It's more like sharing space with the Terminator. There's no bargaining with a baby, no reasoning, no putting things off for a more convenient moment. They put you on their schedule by sheer indomitable force of will and 'WAAAH!' You snatch bits of sleep when they rest and keep vigil when they don't, stumbling through a drowsy routine of baths, bottles and bodily fluids.
As with any initiation worthy of the name, parenthood involves death and rebirth. Much of your old life falls away as you take on new responsibilities. You suddenly have a direct, personal stake in the future which you never had before. Death may save you from the consequences of this generation's follies: do you want your children or your grandchildren or your great-great grandchildren cleaning up your mess? An exceptionally cute but completely vulnerable life is in your hands right now. It's your job to guide that nascent adult to maturity and to freedom - and no matter how well you do, there are no final guarantees as to the outcome.
But if your child learns from you, you learn from your child. This is true even at the beginning. For Annamaria there is no place but here and no time but now. When you are out of the room she screams like you will never return, because she does not know that you will. But she also laughs merrily at rain brushing against the window, at lights sparkling on the ceiling, at the mobile tinkling over her head. All her sorrow and all her joy is on the surface: you cannot look at a baby without realizing how tightly we armor ourselves against the world. And when you are loved without expectation and without conditions, it becomes so easy to throw off that armor and to give back all that love and more.
In my other writings I've generally taken the role of the Instructor, the Giver of Information, the One With Knowledge. This blog is different: like every other first-time parent I'm trying desperately to figure most of this stuff out as I go. As such, I am always open to advice from those who have been through the Valley of the Shadow of Colic, who have suffered through the Slobbering Dark Nights of Teething, who have learned how to function on a sleep schedule that would give a meth addict pause. You're likely to find as many questions as answers here: I'm hoping this becomes a dialogue wherein we can all learn from each other.
And on that note, I hear faint whimpers of displeasure in the play yard beside me. The tyrant has awakened from her nap. I must leave this keyboard and attend to more important matters.
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