I don’t know that I’m a baby person. Or, more accurately, I know that I’m not really a baby person. I can appreciate a cute baby’s cuteness, though more often I sweetly lie about a mushy martian baby’s swollen blahness, describing it as almost painfully cute.
Before our first kid was born, Lauren and I promised each other that we’d be honest and objective. If our baby came out looking gross, we’d acknowledge it to one other and assume that cuteness would come in time. Then Anya was born, and she was the most beautiful creature we’d ever seen.
Until we looked at her newborn photos a couple months later and realized that, in fact, she’d been a puffy rashy mess of a one-hour-old, and we’d been too love blind to notice. No matter; she truly has grown up to be a lovely, jaw-droppingly beautiful five-year-old.
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As our kids have grown, I’ve found that I like the older ages better. I can talk, share, and even play with a five-year-old much more easily than I can with a two-year-old. And playing with a three-year-old beats playing with a one-year-old. Or so I thought.
Maybe that’s just the lie parents tell themselves as their kids age. The three-year-old will never be a two-year-old again, so of course you believe that three is more fun than two. Because while I’m certain that three-year-old Sierra is more fun than two-year-old Sierra, I can’t deny that 11.9-month-old Liam is a delight all his own.
The first couple months of an infant’s life suck. For everyone. Yes, you get a new baby, and the baby sleeps angelically a lot, but it also poops a lot, screams a lot, and cries a lot. You give and you give, and you get nothing but incessant middle-of-the-night wakings and diaper changes and spit up. Newborns don’t love you back. Newborns are kind of jerks.
But my son Liam turned the corner from floppy crying newborn to engaging cuddly baby pretty early on. Now, a week away from his first birthday, he has a few words (“Up!”, “Dada!”, “MORE!”, “Book,” and a couple others). He has a few signs. Those skills are dwarfed, however, by his bucketloads of personality.
Liam loves. He smiles a smile so big it hurts. You’d call it a toothy smile, but the little guy only has two teeth. He smiles with the kind of life-affirming, body-filling joy that can’t help but make you feel a little sad, because you know soon he’ll never be able to feel quite that level of happiness again.
Except, of course, he just might. When he has his own kids.
Plenty of parents are proselytizers for parenthood. Kids are wonderful! I never knew what happiness was/life meant/love felt like/whatever until I had kids!
Of course, sane people recognize that having kids means making oodles of sacrifices. You give up free time. You give up Me Time. You give up seemingly endless amounts of money. Parenthood proselytizers tell you that it’s all worth it for the good moments. The baby smiles, the hugs, the laughs, the random unprompted “I love you”s.
And that’s all true.
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I’ve been losing weight with the help of an iPhone app for the past six weeks. I’m counting calories. When I hit my calorie limit, I’m done eating for the day. It helps if this happens by the end of dinnertime, or more ideally, by the end of dessert. If you use up your calories midway through lunch, you’re in for a lousy, Yom Kippur-esque afternoon.
The big plus to counting calories—besides, of course, the 13.8 pounds I’m down so far—is the increased appreciation for the calories you do get each day. I’M ALLOWED FEWER THAN 1700 CALORIES TODAY, BUT I AM TOTALLY EATING THIS MOIST, WARM CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE. AND IT IS EXQUISITE. And then the next day, you weigh .7 fewer pounds than you did the day before. Win/win.
It’s a metaphor for parenthood. A crappy metaphor, but a metaphor nonetheless. ALL THREE KIDS ARE ASLEEP AND I CAN NOW SIT DOWN NEXT TO MY EQUALLY EXHAUSTED WIFE AND WATCH TIVO’D DRAMAS. That’s a victory as delicious as my almost-naughty-but-totally-permissible chocolate chip cookie. And in the morning, I get to hug and kiss my kids and start all over again.
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Let’s be honest, though. Sometimes—a lot of times, maybe—those morning hugs and kisses are actually far-too-early morning negotiations and frustrations and altercations. Sierra wakes up at 6:11 and wants to play with Anya, who’s asleep, so then can she please come into our room, but she can’t, because now the baby’s asleep in our room, so she can play quietly in her own room, but she doesn’t want to be alone, so can Daddy please stay with her, but Daddy would really like five more minutes to stay in his own bed, and now she’s crying, and now she woke up Anya, and Anya wants to play in Sierra’s room, but Sierra wants to play in Anya’s room, and now they’re both mad, and now they’re both crying, and now I’m counting to three but I have no well-thought out consequences by the time I get to three, because now it’s only 6:13.
Daddy is not proud of himself on these mornings.
There are mornings—and days—where everything clicks, where all three kids are happy and content and joys to be around. There are also days where one of the kids is a nightmare. There are days when all six kids are nightmares, and I only have three kids, so how is this happening?
But truces are eventually brokered. During time-out number four, you make a breakthrough, and there’s a hug, and it’s a really, really good hug. You’ve been a good dad for a moment there, and the kid knows it, and you know it, too.
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I still don’t think of myself as a baby person. I like kids who can talk and walk and wrestle and play games and pretend.
And yet I can’t get over how wonderful Liam truly is. His personality is, in a word, exuberance. If he’s not ready for bed or suffering an ear infection, Liam is endlessly happy.
Before he was born, I worried whether I’d know how to take care of a boy, or even show affection to one, since I’d started with two girls.
When we dance cheek to cheek, Liam laughing as I twirl him around the room, I think back to what an idiot Pre-Liam Lex was for worrying about that.
I can’t wait until Liam can have a conversation with me. I’m very excited for when we can play rough, pretend we’re firefighters, and read books. But I love my son like crazy, and will do anything I can think of to elicit one of his face-encompassing smiles. And—with perhaps a couple dozen more teeth involved—I’ll mirror his face right back at him.
Happy birthday, Liam. I love you.