390. More About Babies

I have a new friend who is about to become a father. When I last wrote about babies, I wrote that babies were not my favorite people – that they had potential, but that I’d rather relate to them after they’d reached more of it. As I wrote that,
I was thinking of time I’d spent with other people’s babies, and proud parents who had shown me photograph after photograph of their babies. I was thinking about my attempts to babysit with babies, and how incompetent I’d felt. And men are not naturally equipped to meet one of babies’ most pressing needs. That really bothered me; didn’t my daughter know that I would help if I could?
But when my friend told me (by e-mail) that he and his wife would soon be parents, I started thinking about my daughters. They’re both over a quarter century away from babyhood, but I remember the times I gave my wife a little extra sleep by sitting up with Katy or Lara and dancing and singing my daughter back to sleep. At first, I didn’t know many lullabies, and it didn’t take me long to get tired of “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” but I soon realized that any song could be a lullaby if you sang it slowly enough. The Beatles’ “All My Loving” became my favorite lullaby.
Some people work hard to become articulate. I had. But tone of voice means everything to a baby. At first, I tried to say profound things to my baby daughters, but after a while, I recited lines from plays I’d been in. They didn’t know the difference. As long as I said the lines in a gentle, high-pitched voice, they were happy. They smiled at words written by Arthur Miller, Jean Anouilh, or William Shakespeare just as surely as they smiled at my declarations of love. How fickle of them!
During those years after your childhood and before you become a parent (if there are such years), you get to plan a lot of your day. Of course, you do have to earn a living, and that can take up a lot of your time, but what’s left is yours. If you’re part of a couple, some of that time, for better or worse, is couple time, but the two of you can pay attention to each other’s priorities, and negotiate great compromises. The word “need” is tossed around, but ultimately, it only means what you want it to mean; you can survive without each other.
When a baby enters the scene, “need” takes on its other meaning. As long as he/she needs you, you know where you must be. And it can be hard
to relate to someone who doesn’t seem to be thinking about what YOU need. I know that I “need” children, and it doesn’t really take long for babies to become children, but there were times when I wished they’d hurry up.
I wish the new soon-to-be parents happiness and peace. I wish them strength to get through the sleepless nights. And I thank them for inadvertently reminding me that though my daughters’ babyhood was challenging for me and my wife, there was a lot of joy involved, too.

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