Friday, January 29

New Parents in a Foreign Land

From Anthony Doerr's memoir Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World

"Maybe being a new parent is like moving to a foreign country. There is the Before and the After, an Old Life and a New Life. Sometimes we wonder who we were before. Sometimes we wonder who we are now. Sometimes our feet get tired. Sometimes we find ourselves reaching for guidebooks.

We are humbled over and over—humility hangs over our heads like a sledgehammer. Oh, your novel got a nice review? That's great. You can read it after you scrub the feces out of your child's pajamas. Oh, you think you've been here long enough to barter at the street markets? Guess what, you just spent 8 lira on three plastic clothes hangers.

Every few days there are moments of excruciating beauty. We are simultaneously more happy and more worn out than we have ever been in our lives. We communicate by grinning and pointing and waving food in the air. We don't sleep as well as we used to. Our expectations (today I might take a shower; the #75 bus might actually show up) are routinely dashed. Just when we think we have the system (two naps a day; Shauna finds a rosticceria with chickens on spits that is open on Sundays), the system collapses. Just when we think we know our way around, we get lost. Just when we think we know what's coming next, everything changes."

Isn't that a beautiful description of parenthood? I haven't lived a foreign country but when I came home with a new baby I might as well have been sent to Mars! No amount of 21st century preparation (read the books, take the classes, search the web) provided any guidance on how to really live with a tiny being that didn't gain weight or sleep or speak up about how to fix it. I remember the biggest difference between baby #1 and baby #2 was that I knew we would all probably survive those early months of baby #2 - the first time around I absolutely did not know how it would all work out. And now, sometimes, I feel like an expert - at least with my two children - until the system collapses and everything changes ... again.

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