This is better

It’s Monday evening, Sally’s last night of maternity leave, and she’s sitting in the living room staring flatly out a window.

“Dreading going back?” I ask.

“Going back to work? No. Leaving Slade? Yes,” she replies, turning to look at me.

“My mom is here,” I remind her. “The baby is in very capable hands.”

“But they’re not my hands,” she says. “Mine are better.”

She turns and gazes outside again.

******************

Before our firstborn, Eli, arrived, I asked other parents about their experiences raising children. They told me about how their newborn didn’t sleep for more than two hours at a stretch, about how they’d been to one movie since the child was born, about how much the blankity blank blank kid was sick, and about how much the little turd cost the family.

The stories were downers. Every single one of them.

I also asked the parents if it was worth it, and they responded that it was and then plunged into platitudes about love and other drippy stuff that didn’t really tell me anything.

The best response came from a gal at work. She said, “I’m not sure that I really like being a parent, but it’s worth it. It’s worth every brutal second.”

******************

Sally wakes up at 5 AM on Tuesday to shower, nurse Slade, and eat breakfast. She’s on her way to work for the first time in months, and Slade is still sacked out on the bed next to me. When I get up, Slade’s awake, his blue eyes following the ceiling fan going around and around.

“Hey, littlest dude,” I say.

He smiles, all gums and puffy cheeks and drool. He kicks his legs and laughs.

Lying there in the gray light, with the fan turning and the boy giggling, I get it, just like I get it when Eli falls down in soccer and gets back up without a tear, just like I get it when I see Eli asleep on his side with his favorite blanket. I get being a parent.

And I get why it’s worth it. It’s these tiny moments, these fleeting instants that make me laugh and mist up and feel happy and proud deep inside.

We humans pretend as if we’re rational beings. We’re not. We’re jerked around by emotions like leashed animals, subjectivity guiding every action, every decision, every belief.

And parenthood, especially what makes it worthwhile, is all emotion and mainly ineffable. You can quantify the bad—the expense and the time away from work. You can’t quantify the feeling—that infant with your eyes and your spouse’s nose, that first bike ride without training wheels.

******************

It’s Tuesday evening, and I ask Sally about her first day back at the job.

She tells me it was fine. “But this is better,” she adds, looking at Slade who’s squirming and starting to fuss.

And it is. Holding this baby who’s about to cry. Watching these kids grow into themselves. Being a parent. This is better.

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2 Responses to “This is better”


  1. 1 feeddunk May 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Damn you Craig! Again, hit nail on head! Needed a smile. Thanks.

  2. 2 manda May 11, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    “Brutal seconds” = my life very often these days. But, then, those seconds pass, and what’s left is definitely better. And, it’s funny, because during the “brutal seconds,” time seems to move at such a slow pace. In the better seconds, my, my, it flies. Nice writing!


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