Friday, August 6, 2010

A Year of Parenthood

So, it was Edie's birthday yesterday. I wish her the happiest of birthdays, and I don't say that in any sense of obligatory parental duty. I say that because Edie is a wonderful person, full of joy and fascination, with a hearty laugh and a love of nature. I just like her. She's fun to be around (when she's not crabby).

Edie's birthday also means we've spent a year as parents. In that time we've learned a lot, not just about being parents but about being people. So much more of the world makes sense after you've been a parent, and I thought I'd mark this momentous occasion by talking about a few of the things we've learned, like:

Perpetual fear - The wisest parenting advice I got? "Being a parent is about coming to terms with the fact that you're perpetually terrified." It's true, so one of the hardest things to learn as a parent is when to let go, when to let your kid make their own decisions, and when to step in and force the issue. While I could fret, worry and rule Edie to no end, I know that it eventually becomes counteractive.

Patience - That screaming kid in the grocery store that I used to complain about under my breath? No problem now. I'm always grateful when it's not Edie.

Straightening up and flying right - In my 20s, I was a hippie/loner type who read too much Jack Kerouac and played "embellishment guitar." Now I read Newsweek and learn three-chord songs. I still feel cool, by the way, although I am fully aware of the fact that I am so not cool.

How people go from little small people with issues to large big people with issues - After observing Edie now for a year, I realize that many of her emotional responses to stimuli aren't much different from an adult's. She gets frustrated, angry, ecstatic, thoughtful, contemplative, and confused, along with many other complex emotions. She has a lot to learn about how things work and how they affect her, but she has learned what the effects of the world are - varying degrees of plus, minus, and "I dunno."

The whole world is freaking awesome - After taking Edie to Folk Fest this year, I learned exactly what people mean when they say that they see the world through the eyes of a child (I think that was a Michael McDonald song). There was a point when, outside in the sun and air, she started dancing to Andrew Bird and Konono No. 1 and I figured that this was about the most awesome thing EVER. Then, just a couple nights ago, she started drawing with a piece of sidewalk chalk and I thought that this was about the most awesome thing EVER. You see where I'm going here. Everything is the most awesome thing EVER. You can pay big money for pills that do that, or you can just watch a kid make their way in the world.

They see and learn more than we think - Edie puts on her little monkey bag the same way I put on my bag. She's always trying to put on Britta's shoes. She picks words up out of thin air. We hear her practicing words and using her voice in her crib. While paying attention to her, it's easy to see ourselves reflected back at us. This may be the most potent lesson learned from your children - who you are. One of my parenting edicts is to avoid negative feedback loops, meaning that I try not to let negative situations spiral out of control by piling on more negativity. I see this as being more and more important as time moves forward.

There's a lot more to come - Here I'm talking about Edie like she's fully grown and ready to move out of the house. We're still caring for a vulnerable and impressionable youngling here and the prospects of that make me dizzy with happiness.

It's been a good year so far, Edie Pants. Thank you for all you've taught us and are about to teach us. Happy birthday.

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