Squawk Radio

Friday, February 17, 2006

Liz on the Joys of New Parenthood (No, Really)

Immediately after announcing we were expecting our son, my husband and I began to hear the litanies from people who had already experienced the joys of new parenthood: “You have no idea how much your life is going to change.” And “It’s impossible to prepare for the difference a baby makes in your life.” To which we always replied, “We know, we know. We have no expectations other than that our lives are going to change. And we’re ready for that change.”

We had no idea. And we were in no way prepared.

Before our son was born, I read all the parenting magazines that told me I’d fall in love with my baby the minute the doctor put him in my arms. About the warm, rosy glow I’d experience every time I breast fed him. About the bond he and I would forge right out of the gate. But my most vivid memories of those first few weeks of parenthood consist largely of my husband and me sitting on the couch watching “Batman” and “Animaniacs” because we were too exhausted to even push the channel button on the remote control, and both of us murmuring like zombies, “We made a terrible, terrible mistake. What were we thinking?”

Eventually, however--once the shock wore off--the rosy glow did come. And it came from things I never could have imagined or been prepared for. The way we’d open our eyes every morning to the sound of the crib mattress squeaking because our son was jumping up and down on it to wake us. And the way we’d go into his room and he’d greet us with a huge smile, so delighted was he that we were just...there. The rosy glow came every time he wrapped his fat little fist around my wrist when I sat him in my lap to read to him. It was there in the way that his favorite toy for the longest time was a garlic press. It was there when he used the club chair in the living room as a parking garage for all his Thomas engines, since it had a cool flap at the bottom he could push up and down like a door. It was there every time I watched him sleeping. (And not just because he was finally asleep.)

Our new baby brought other things, too, that we never expected and couldn’t be prepared for, things that changed my husband and me as much as they changed our lifestyle. Fear, even terror, that lies just below the surface and which will be with us for the rest of our lives. The realization that, when all is said and done, we are as primitive as badgers in that we could and would harm or kill without compunction anyone who tried to do our offspring harm. The knowledge that we alone are responsible for another human being in the world, one whom we could, depending on our actions and examples, turn into Hitler or Gandhi.

But stronger even than any of those was the generation of an entirely new emotion--parental love. It differs from other kinds of love in that it is truly unconditional. Totally unexpected. And is tied into a million different things. I loved both my parents growing up, but I knew they had each other to rely on, and that there were a lot of things in their lives that didn’t include me. I love my husband, but he’s his own person and can ultimately take care of himself. But our son, for now, is reliant on us and is still working on being his own person. His life is woven inextricably with ours for a while yet. Someday, he’ll go off and be his own person who will ultimately take care of himself. Someday, there will be things in his life that don’t include his father and me. Someday, he’ll know another kind of love than what he has for his mom and dad.

Someday, he might even know what it is to be a parent. And then my husband and I will start all over again, loving our grandchildren in yet another way. I have no idea how our lives will change if/when we have grandchildren. I suppose it’s impossible to prepare. But if watching my own mom with her grandkids is any indication, there’s a pretty major rosy glow there.

So who else was amazed by the difference a baby made in their lives? What is it that your kids, of any age, do that leave you with a warm, rosy glow? Just why do we love our kids so danged much anyway?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 7:44 AM