I’ve been a father for more than two years now and have two kids to show for it, but there’s a big part of me that thinks I’m always going to feel like a “new” dad. I’m not sure what the time limit is on that societal distinction, but with the way my kids keep changing and giving me brand new parental experiences, it seems like it should probably be greater than two years.
That said, it’s weekends like this one that
Quick aside: Charlie, if you’re reading this post in the future, I know that I have given you short shrift on this blog. Please know that the number of blog posts devoted to your development is in no way proportional to my love. It’s more a testament to the busy-ness of having more kids and setting unrealistic blogging expectations. The first eight months of your life were incredibly unique and different from our experience with Maddie–especially since Maddie was there to respond and interact with you along the way–and my failure to document so much of that is probably grounds for my dismissal from the Council of Dad Bloggers.1
OK, so back to the weekend. Originally, Theresa was going to leave on Saturday morning and drive back on
Fortunately, we have a wonderful friend who was able to take care of Charlie for the afternoon on Friday along with her own two young daughters2, as I had to head downtown for a work meeting. Fortunately, Charlie was a very good boy for her and took a couple naps, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I also got a couple respites by going out to eat with my parents and brothers this weekend, which helped break up the long stretches of being snowed in with Sir Charles.
I’m not going to recount the entire weekend, but there was a lot of quality father and son time that gave me a greater glimpse into Theresa’s everyday life with Charlie (minus Maddie’s contributions) and a reminder of what the life of an eight-month-old baby is like.
He slept a lot.
With Maddie down to one or zero naps every day, I kind of forgot how much babies sleep when they are younger. In some ways, the day is a battle to keep him (and me!) entertained for the 3-4 hours between feedings and naps. I’m so grateful for the fact that Charlie is a good napper. He stayed on his schedule like clockwork this weekend–showing signs of tiredness and hunger at the perfect times–and I must brag that I did an excellent job plotting things out so that the naps were timed to whatever external activities we had planned. I also relished the one-child-only nap times that allowed me to actually get some work done around the house or watch an episode of a TV show or even–gasp–write a long overdue blog post!
I talked to myself a lot.
The solitude of caring for a young baby really hit me this weekend. I’ve become so accustomed to Maddie’s interactivity, that it was a vaguely familiar blast from the past to be talking up a storm to a kid who has nothing to add to the conversation. Nevertheless, I felt a need to be talking to him almost constantly so that he knew I was here–especially if I briefly left the room–and to give him some stimulation. What’s that minimum number of words that a developing baby should hear each day? I think I more than hit that this weekend…
Charlie is on the verge.
Despite the lack of feedback, Charlie is at such an intriguing age. His physical and social aspirations are still quite a bit beyond his abilities, which leaves him always looking like he wants to say something to me and awkwardly flailing around because he wants to crawl or walk but can only manage to lunge his giant head in the direction of whatever he is seeking. It’s still hard to believe right now that he will most likely be crawling around in a matter of weeks and probably walking in a few months. Unlike Maddie–who was only ever interested in things that were easily within her reach–Charlie is a certified National Geographic Explorer. His limited mobile skills might be a hindrance to his bodily safety, but not to getting what he wants. Much like his unintentional namesake Professor Charles Xavier, our Charles Xavier seems to be able to draw things to himself telepathically. Well, his large hands and brute strength are probably a more likely explanation. Maybe we should have named him Hank McCoy.
Much like Maddie before him, Charlie is firmly entrenched in the age where his strenuous daily activities serve no real purpose. Anything within his line of sight is fair game to be examined thoroughly, tasted repeatedly and then ultimately discarded. At least his time in the jumper3 and the laps we walk around the house4 are building some muscle mass that will ultimately serve his physical development. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s one of those kids who walk before they crawl. He already tries to stand up from a sitting position by pulling himself up on whatever or whoever is nearby. Meanwhile, his efforts at crawling are stalled by his inability to reposition his leg underneath him when he pushes himself forward from a sitting position to a crawling one. One way or another, his physical independence is set to explode momentarily–and we have not properly baby-proofed!5
Charlie is a smiley trooper.
Being with Charlie uninterrupted for a few days in a row, I feel like I got an even better sense of his personality and his personal challenges. For starters, he has had a constipation issue for weeks now that no amount of prunes have been able to eradicate. Watching him try to do his business is a heartbreaking affair, and today the prunes ended up making him go more often, but not any more easily. This means he almost always has a sore bottom, but these digestive challenges don’t slow down his friendly demeanor for long.
Charlie is such a smiley kid. He smiles at friends and family, he smiles at strangers, he smiles for photos and he’s been smiling at me all weekend long. He loves peek-a-boo and Barbara Ann6. He loves when he grabs something he shouldn’t have and I comically tug on it a few times before pulling it away from him. He feels his feelings authentically and passionately–whether that’s the intensity of NEEDING THAT BOTTLE IN HIS MOUTH RIGHT NOW or desperately reaching for a toy or zero-to-sixty crying when he’s upset or gently relaxing his head on my shoulder when he’s tired. Maddie had a poker face by comparison, so it’s kind of fun to be raising a kid who gives you both ends of the emotional spectrum. He is truly the Chicago of babies–you enjoy/endure all four seasons. You can also wait five minutes for the weather to change.
Parenting is hard.
This is not news to anyone, but it’s always worth repeating. There is nothing easy about being a parent…especially a stay-at-home parent. It can be physically, emotionally and (anti-)socially exhausting. It can seem like you’re doing something wrong, failing your kid or will never get that five-minute break you so desperately need. On the other hand, there is no other responsibility on Earth that gives you such a two-way street of unconditional love. Even though he can’t verbally communicate with me yet, there were so many moments this weekend when Charlie would just look at me and smile or choose to lunge in my direction so he could bury his face in my chest.
This weekend reaffirmed for me just how incredible it is to be a father–a demanding vocation requiring steadfast attention to reap longterm rewards. And this weekend, I did it (mostly) on my own! Even if I can’t be a reliable dad blogger, at least I can still be a reliable dad.