Getting To Know You, A Letter To My Son
To my angel-tyrant,
Before you were here, your dad and I talked about what the first few months with you were going to be like. We wouldn’t be working, and would be home all day every day trying to figure out how to be parents.
Trying to figure out you.
Your dad told me, early on, that he would just watch what I was doing and take cues from me about how to take care of you.
(This was because before you, your dad was never around babies. He had held maybe 4 babies…for 5 minutes each…and all because I basically threw them into his arms as “practice”.)
I quickly explained to him that while I’d “been around babies” (much younger siblings, cousins, kids I’d nannied for, friend’s kids) that IN NO WAY meant I knew what I was doing.
Becoming a parent was a completely new, terrifying, exhilarating concept and I was flying as blind into it as he was.
But I tried to seem calm and collected as I said,
“Ya know, I think we will take those first few months to try to get to know our kid…and take our cues from him.”
And, yeah…we are doing that.
We are getting to know you.
We are taking our cues from you.
And you…if nothing else, are being very helpful.
Because you, my dear angel-tyrant…
Are not a potato.
(My sister, the funniest human I know, once said to me that newborns are like potatoes: they just sit there.)
You do not just sit there.
You never have.
When you were born, you were on oxygen in the NICU because you were having trouble breathing and expelling all the fluid from your lungs. The day after you were born, I finally got to see you, wheeled up the the third floor drugged out of my mind and more excited than I had ever been in my life. I was told that you had been repeatedly yanking the oxygen tubes out of your nose, and they were having trouble keeping them on you at all. You were handed to me, wires and tubes attached to your little, wrinkly body…
and you looked up at me…
and proceeded to projectile-vomit amniotic fluid ALL OVER ME.
That was it.
No more fluid in your lungs.
That was your first demand.
“Get me the fuck out of this NICU.”
When we first got home, and we were learning to breast feed, my doula came to the house to check on our progress. Now…when I say you would “rage-feed”….I mean it. I am not exaggerating. Tiny velociraptor screeches we would later coin “booby mating calls”, pierced the air as you flailed and kicked and head-butted my chest for what seemed like an eternity, before latching on with the ferocity of a Hungarian Horntail. (If you don’t know that reference by the time you read this I have officially failed you as a mother.).
And from day one, you wanted to DO IT YOURSELF.
You would push away my hands when I tried to help you latch, and hit my boob out of your mouth when the letdown was too strong, and grab it and latch yourself while growling like a rabid howler monkey if I was too slow.
My doula…this wonderful, soft-spoken, calm and reassuring goddess…tilted her head, assessing you, and said…with the carefulness of someone who knows they are addressing a tightly wound ball of postpartum hormones…
“He might be one of those kids who’s just very… Reactive. That’s not a bad thing!!! It just means he’s passionate.”
When we take you out into the world… To airplanes, to TV sets, to swimming pools, to friends’s houses and to the park or beach…you are, in the words of friends and strangers alike,
“A perfect, chill, easy, angel-baby.”
You rarely cry when we are out in the world.
You are quiet and calm and seem to be taking everything in.
You watch EVERYTHING.
And, with every new experience, you spend your time quietly assessing the situation and deciding whether or not to make it known to us later, in no uncertain terms, that you FUCKING HATED IT.
It looks like serenity…or apathy…but it is actually calculated pre-rage.
Everyone that has spent actual time with you in the comforts of our home, soon makes the discovery that this angel baby has a little tyrant in the driver’s seat…pushing all the buttons at once, with a lead foot and eye on the prize. (The prize, 90% of the time, is boobs.)
You ARE a perfect, chill, angel baby.
Until you decide you are over that nonsense and we are not fast enough with the boobs, the soothing, or the changing and HOW DARE WE NOT HELP YOU FIT YOUR ENTIRE HAND IN YOUR MOUTH WHAT THE FUCK PARENTS GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.
Granted, we really suck at certain things.
We are unsure of bathtime.
You are little and squirmy and I accidentally poured water directly into your eye during your first bath and am forever scarred by that memory and you, like a horse, can sense this uncertainty and take it as a sign of weakness and who would let a bunch of incompetent morons pour water on them while they are exposed and vulnerable, anyways?
Not you. That’s for sure.
You hate baths.
I don’t really blame you.
On the flip side of rage, is utter elation.
When you like something…you really fucking like it.
Like bouncing, you love bouncing. And swinging and flying and soft things and being held.
(You are definitely my kid. )
You crack yourself up when you fart, you dance to goofy songs, you laugh at my stupid faces.
(You are definitely your dad’s kid)
In the early mornings, you light up with the softest, most genuine smile…that I wish I could bottle and send all over the world.
You love a soft caress on your cheek, and are far more gentle with your returning punch to the face than most newborns. (I assume.)
You love to cuddle, and nuzzle your head into my neck and slowly brush my back with your tiny fingers.
And you coo, tiny, contented baby coos…and sometimes, when I sing you to sleep at night, I swear you sing with me.
You look at me with the wisdom and calm of a thousand year old Mother Nature-esque movie fairy godmother.
Or Morgan Freeman if you insist on a male reference.
We have long chats.
They are quiet, and honest, and full of a love so intense it brings me to tears almost daily.
The folks that have stuck around through full meltdowns–most of whom are related to you and also live across the country so have no escape-say matter of factly and with love:
” I don’t think he’s gonna be an easy kid.”
We don’t either.
You are strong and determined and passionate. This will guide you and give you the drive to go manifest whatever dreams fill your soul as you watch, absorb, and yes…judge…but hopefully with an open, kind heart…the world around you.
You are happy and silly and sweet and talkative and friendly. This will attract other sweet, silly souls to be your tribe.
You are reactive, which is hard…but you are also contemplative (impressive, in a 4 month old) This gives us hope that you will learn to take a breath (or three) and talk about your feelings before exploding through them…or at least channel the explosion into something weird and fun.
Your grandparents are psychologists. I grew up in a land of “how does that make you feel?” And “How do you think that makes them (whoever I was in conflict with) feel?”.
A land of feelings.
But justified, thought out, carefully analyzed, spoken feelings.
I was yelled at twice in my entire childhood, and I remember both with visceral terror. Once, at age 3, when I was reaching up to touch a very hot stove. And once, at age 13, when I neglected to tell my mom that I was going to the library after school and consequently we missed an important doctors appointment for my little sister because she couldn’t find me.
(Try not to be jealous of the rebellious, edgy, super cool life I led as a teenager where the worst thing I ever did was go to the library…actually, please take note of this and kindly recreate it.)
But, while I was encouraged to be creative and expressive, I very often kept any feelings I saw as “negative”…anger, fear, sadness…bottled up inside.
I don’t think you will have that problem.
And we will be there to help you work through anything…any anger.
If I could take those from you and feel them myself…I would.
If I could protect you from anything but happiness and calm and a sense of safety…I would.
But, that’s not life.
Life is hard.
You are four months old, and already…
You love hard.
I couldn’t ask for anything better.
There is nothing better, to me, than you.
My perfect. Loving. Angel-tyrant.
What would you write to your child?