11 September 2019

How Parenting Has Changed Us

Three years ago, I woke Angel up at 5 a.m. to tell him I was pregnant. Because I couldn't possibly wait five minutes, or until a reasonable hour, like 6 a.m. It was too exciting, I'd been waiting so long. He didn't believe me. Now, is it at all conceivable that your wife would wake you up at 5 a.m. to lie about being pregnant with the baby you've been hoping for? I don't think so. I still don't know why he didn't believe me.

Something about our lives changed then, even though that first baby was one who didn't get to stay. Even though that baby didn't quite make it to 8 weeks, in some sense, when I think about the different eras of my life, it feels like a new era began in September 2016. That first pregnancy changed some parts of who we are. More changed 18 months ago when we brought our Cyrus home and we got to actually begin experiencing life with a baby...who quickly grew into a toddler.

Here are a few of the changes, big and small, lighthearted and less-so, inside and outside, that I've noticed:

-  Our leisure activities have changed. Sitting in one spot, watching TV together, is no longer much of a thing, at least not between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Before, the end of the work day was the end of the day, for the most part. We'd eat dinner, watch a show, catch up on individual hobbies or work projects, and go to bed. Now? Angel thinks of what outings can happen between when he gets home from school at 6 p.m. and bedtime. We eat our dinners and then it's adventure time. On Monday, we went to the beach after school. On Tuesday, Angel and Cyrus went swimming in the pool. Other days they'll head out for a walk in the neighborhood or visit the park. We get out more, because we're more motivated to get out and do things now that we have a little guy to do them with. Sure, Angel and I went to the beach once in a while when it was just the two of us. We'd walk and chat...beach trips look much different with a one year old, but they occur much more frequently because something about this little boy's energy level boosts our own levels of energy for getting out and about.

- We eat more variety. Everyone has favorite fruits and veggies, right? And I can definitely get into the rut of cooking the same handful of meals over and over. But now we have another little body to think about. Angel has started to pick up random vegetables or fruits that we didn't eat often on a more regular basis, because he'll think, "Oh, Cyrus should try this!" I also share my food better than ever before. I still wouldn't call myself good at sharing food, but if you knew what I was like before when it came to my favorite foods, you would know that motherhood has changed me. ha!

- We save 'trash' a lot more often. We both skew minimalist, and don't like to have clutter in our home. Neat, clean, and somewhat empty is my happy place. But now, when I finish a plastic jar of chia seeds, my first thought is, "A new toy for Cyrus!" Many bottles and boxes hang out in our home for a few days or weeks beyond when they ought to have gone into the garbage or recycling, simply because we've found that Cyrus appreciates and plays with them so much that they are better off spending some time with him before moving on to their next life. The "beach toys" we brought with us on Monday consisted of a milk powder scoop (those are some of his favorites!) with a chia seed jar, and he spent a lot of our beach time dutifully filling up that jar, one scoop of sand at a time.

- On a related note, we aren't nearly so bothered by mess as we used to be. We're still neat by nature, and it's probably no coincidence that "dirty" is one of Cyrus's few words, and sweeping the floor remains a favorite hobby, but...I typically won't bother picking up all of his toys in the living room before Angel gets home from work. We are working to teach Cyrus to pick up his toys and to keep sets of toys together, so if he wants to get out something new, we try to pick up the toys that are out first...but it doesn't bother either one of us if megablocks are still scattered on the living room rug when we go to bed.

- We notice 'small things' so much more. I never remember hearing the calls of birds from my apartment until Cyrus started hearing them and getting excited to react to every bird call. I now notice the background music when we're in stores because Cyrus starts dancing to it. I actively look for cicaks (house geckos) to point out to him because he loves finding them--where previously I generally ignored their regular presence. I notice stray hairs on the floor that need to be swept up because he pays so much attention to the state of my floors. haha! I see the birds resting on powerlines now, even when I'm not with Cyrus, just because I'm so accustomed to him pointing them out while riding in the car.

- Time is more valuable. Few things can teach you the importance of not wasting the time you're given like watching a child change in the first 18 months after he's born. Wow. I definitely waste less time than I used to--both in the practical sense, as in, I've learned that I can accomplish a LOT of housework during a naptime, and in the emotional sense--spending time as a family all together has become so precious, and opportunities to do so are not ones we want to waste! Also, time for just Angel and I comes in occasionally, and we are certainly more intentional than we were when such time was much more easily come by.

- Decisions about going out to eat are very different than they used to be. We now consider what Cyrus can eat and the experience of being with a toddler at a restaurant. A favorite local restaurant of ours is a Chinese noodle soup shop. That restaurant is now reserved solely for the occasional date night as there aren't any high chairs and the only thing served in the restaurant is scalding hot stoneware bowls of noodle soup, to be eaten with chopsticks. Nothing about being in that restaurant with Cyrus sounds appealing, so we'll go to the local Indian breakfast shop where he can sit in his highchair and eat roti dipped in curry instead. The guys there love him, anyways. The cashier always insists that Cyrus "pay for the meal"--handing him the money and receiving the change.

- Watching a show takes way longer. I recently saw some joke about parenting being where watching a movie now takes place over the course of three evenings. I think that's pretty accurate. A lot of times, it might be two evenings for one 40 minute TV show. Both Angel and I are early birds, and that hasn't changed, so we are typically falling asleep not too long after 9 no matter what...but add in early mornings, occasional midnight wake ups, and the general child-induced tiredness, and there's plenty of nights that we both fall asleep as soon as he's in bed.

- I'm both braver and more terrified than I ever was before. I remember a time when I thought if I ever had a miscarriage, that I would never be brave enough to try again. Little did I know what lay ahead of me, and how that short, short time of loving a baby would strangely hearten me for the journey that lay ahead. I've done braver things and more physically challenging things than I thought I could do on the journey into parenting thus far, but I've also been almost overwhelmed at times with the realization of how very much we don't get to control the fates of our own children and how very much trust and reliance on God it takes when 'your heart is walking around outside your body.' Suddenly, the world seems so much more terrifying. The bookshelf could fall over, the kitchen scissors that have been in the drawer for years are dangerous, the glass door could slam and sever a finger. Endless decisions and bits of information lie before you, safe and unsafe sleeping habits, what should be done about a fever, take him in to the doctor or ride it out at home? Spoon-feed the baby or let him feed himself and make a mess? I can't count the times I've woken up to check on him in the middle of the night, for no reason other than to make sure he's okay. Angel has done the same. I feel braver than I imagined myself to be in my pre-parent days...and have also had more moments of fear in the past three years than I have ever had in life before these past three years. "To love at all is to be vulnerable," C.S. Lewis said, and I think he's right, it applies to all sorts of love, but I think it applies especially to a parent's love for their child. This love makes us vulnerable--it has made me vulnerable, ever since September 2016, and I'm so glad for the chance.
Kay R. said...

I always wonder what will change when we have kids. I think the after work routine thing is one I have imagined in my head changing quite a bit. Bittersweet to let go of some things but the sweet definitely outweighs the bitter. Your family is adorabls

Kristin said...

The food thing lol. If Wells won't share, Scott blames me because I don't share food. But I do share food often with Wells now. It just kind of goes with the territory.

Brita Long said...

I love these observations! I've definitely noticed changes in my BIL and SIL since my nephews were born. Both of them are also less concerned about messes!