The essay prompt when I took the AP English exam as a high school senior read: “And things changed significantly afterward…” I still remember writing about how the course of Western philosophy was forever changed by Rene Descartes who was among the first philosopher to ask the question: “How do we know what we know?”
Were I taking that same exam today, with that same essay prompt, I might be tempted to write about Descartes again, but I’m pretty sure I’d go for the low hanging fruit of becoming a parent.
I’ve been writing “Life Lessons” for as long as I can remember, usually in journals and on the backs of envelopes. While “Life Lessons” sounds “preachy”, that’s not the intent at all. It’s simply a way of organizing experience, capturing memory, and making sense of life’s journey. Over the years I’ve found it very useful and recommend it for everyone!
In honor of my daughter’s monumental leap from infancy to toddlerhood I humbly submit the following incomplete list with the hopes that there’s nothing unique about it, but rather that others who’ve tread this path (or are heading there sometime soon) might find something that speaks to their own experiences. I also hope folks will feel free to add to this list:
1. There is no normal. Prior to becoming a parent it was considered abnormal behavior to sniff another human being’s tush in close proximity with the expectation (even hope) of detecting a foul and unpleasing odor. It is now an almost daily activity that takes place in both public and private spheres.
2. The Invisible Man is not only a novel written by Ralph Ellison. It is also the true story of every father of a cute child. There are times when I literally do not exist.
3. Sometimes Hadara looks like me. Sometimes, thank God!, she looks like her mother. Most of the time she looks like herself. While we see ourselves reflected in her, we also know that she is, already, her own person.
4. It’s all ritual. Waking up rituals, bedtime rituals, day care rituals, Shabbat rituals, bath time rituals, food rituals, Skype rituals, airport security line rituals. Here’s a definition of ritual: spiritually invigorated routine.
5. When your baby is having a coughing fit all you want to do is help her feel better.
6. There are blenders and there are BLENDERS. The Ninja is a BLENDER.
6.5 Beware the “pear high.” The first time my daughter ate pears she laughed and rolled around like a crazy person for the next 25 minutes and then promptly passed out.
7. Babies are anything but helpless. The fact that they’re designed to get other people to lovingly do everything for them (sometimes at the expense of their own sanity) is sufficient evidence in support of this point.
7.5 Honor your parents (i.e. her grandparents) as they are the link connecting the generations! If your child is blessed with grandparents (and in our case even great grandparents) prepare yourself for the fact that their love will burn as strongly as yours when it comes to the newest link in the chain.
8. Everyone loves the outdoors. We aren’t meant to be cooped up all day inside of homes and offices. Whenever baby is in a funk, a walk around the neighborhood invariably does the trick (for her and for us).
10. Everyone needs a smash cake sometimes.
11. A poet once wrote, “What we love, others will love, and we will show them how.” When my daughter grows up to be a guitar geek I claim all the credit.
12. When I get to work at The Davis Academy on Monday morning after having a wonderful weekend with my wife and daughter, I’m often overheard saying, “It’s much easier to take care of 650 children than it is to take care of 1!”
13. I’ve also heard myself say on more than one balmy and warm winter afternoon in Atlanta , “Global warming will be my daughter’s problem!” I guess we’ve all got a selfish streak. I suppose I should be asking, “If it’s her problem, what am I going to do about it?”
13.5 Babies= hope + change. Consider the fact that my daughter entered the world two days after Osama bin Laden exited it.
14. Every parent knows that their child could and should be on the cover of Parenting Magazine. I do not envy their editorial board as every parent is 100% correct.
15. It is possible to take thousands of pictures and shoot hours of video all featuring a single human being. It is not possible to be on the recording end of the camera and not sound like a love struck sucker!
16. Honor thy wife if thou art luckieth enough to have one! My daughter literally wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my amazing wife. She wouldn’t have been born, and she probably would’ve been lost at sea or Costco or some other god forsaken realm were it not for the steadfast love and devotion of her mommy, our family’s 21st century matriach. Thank you, sweetie!
As promised, an incomplete list. I’d love to hear from others!