Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's Been 4 Months Already and I Still Have No Idea What I'm Doing

It’s astonishing to me that Jonah has already been living with us for four months. When Rachel was still pregnant, all my friends kept telling me that once we got through the first three months, everything would get easier. Given that his due date was August 15, I told myself that all I had to do was “make it to Thanksgiving” and everything would be ok. Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and still I can hardly believe I’m really this little boy’s father. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I keep expecting his real parents to show up and take him home. At any rate, much has changed since my last update:

1) Probably the most exciting development this month was his discovery of his own hands. At first, his movements were jerky and uncoordinated. He would just swipe randomly and then pull his hands up to his mouth. But over the last couple of weeks he has made major steps forward. He is now able to hold onto a rattle, grab onto my shirt collar, pull my hair, feel around the inside of my mouth, etc.

2) He’s also started rolling over. I was at work one afternoon just before Thanksgiving when I got an email from Rachel telling me he had rolled over twice in his crib. It’s fascinating to watch. He kind of arches his back and kicks with his legs, pushing himself onto his side, then with a second kick, he flips over onto his back. Of course, the act itself startles him, and as soon as he’s on his back, he starts crying. This is a problem since despite the recommendations from just about every pediatrician on the planet, we let him sleep on his stomach. He just seems much more comfortable that way, but the only problem is that now when we put him face down, he just rolls over and starts crying until we come get him.

3) He still sucks his thumb occasionally, but more often, he jams his whole fist into his mouth. Sometimes he even tries to cram both fists in. It’s kind of hilarious, but it can be annoying when I’m trying to give him a bottle and he won’t get his hands out of the way.

4) He LOVES music, and sometimes when we’re home alone, I’ll put in a CD, crank it up, and dance around with him. He especially likes Bob Marley, the Beatles and classical music. His favorite song is Octopus’s Garden. Whenever I sing it to him, he gets a huge smile on his face and squeals with delight.

5) He’s also discovered his own voice, and each day brings a slew of new sounds - some hilarious, others irritating - as he tries to vocalize. When we sing to him, especially in the morning, he grunts and moans back at us. It’s clear he’s trying to talk or sing. We both have fun holding mock conversations, asking him all kinds of worldly questions and then pretending his grunts are answers. Lately he’s also been screeching, squealing, moaning and making other strange, indescribable noises.

6) Not surprisingly, I love to read comics to him. Usually he’ll sit on my knee and stare while I read them out loud. I doubt he’s able to comprehend anything he is looking at, other than seeing random lines and shapes, but it’s amazing how intently he stares at each page. At only four months he has already been exposed to Love & Rockets (of course!), Little Lit, Acme Novelty Library, Peanuts, The Spirit and even some Hugo Pratt. Oh, and of course Batman, Spider-Man, Daredevil and Superman. Cultivating his love of comics will be one of my most enjoyable ongoing projects.

7) The biggest challenge is that he’s still not sleeping through the night and in the last week or so, he’s been waking up every two or three hours. It’s really taking its toll on us physically and emotionally, and we definitely have been snapping at each other more than usual.

8) Naptimes are also an adventure. Sometimes he goes down easily, other times he fights us with all he’s got. We have no idea why some days he’s fine and other days he staunchly refuses, but it is frustrating. I think we’ve both come to count on those nap breaks for our own sanity, and when we don’t get them, not only are we cranky, but he gets cranky too from being overtired. I wish there was some perfect method that we could follow which would guarantee he always takes a nap on schedule, but so far, from talking to other parents, our struggle seems to be fairly common.

9) Despite all the great toys we received (and with the holidays, they’re still showing up daily!), Jonah’s favorite object is my little shaving mirror. He loves looking at himself, and when I hold it over him he smiles and talks to himself. It’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. I wonder if he realizes he’s looking at himself or thinks there’s someone else staring back at him. They say babies don’t really have a real sense of self-awareness until they’re six months or so, but I find that hard to believe. I guess we’ll never know for sure and I hope we’re not making him too narcissistic too early.

10) His bedroom is finally finished. The last big job was to get some bookshelves so we could put away all of his crap. We finally got some last weekend, but unfortunately they were the kind that you have to assemble with an Allen wrench so I spent the better part of the day on Sunday putting them together. It really wasn’t that bad, though, and they match the rest of the bedroom furniture so it’s all good.

11) Last week, we took him to my office holiday party. I wasn’t sure how he would handle it, since he was not used to this kind of event (though we did take him to a wedding in October, so he had some experience, I guess), but he handled it like a champ. He didn’t cry once, and in fact, he was smiling so much, he charmed all the women, including the President’s wife. It was a fun evening, and everyone complemented us on how happy he seemed. If they only could see him during one of his meltdowns.

12) We just started getting his vaccinations and the first shot was horrible. He screamed his head off and just stared up at Rachel wondering how she could just stand there and let the doctor torture him like that. I wasn’t there, but according to Rachel “it was heartbreaking.” So when it came time for the second round of shots, I got the nod. I have to say that he took it much better than I expected. He definitely cried, but he was fine as soon as it was over. Maybe he was over the initial shock or maybe I was just lucky.

13) Occasionally he’ll have a crying fit so intense, he just won’t stop no matter what we do. He’s fed, changed, and dressed warm enough. Like any new parent, I try everything - holding him, playing with him, singing to him, bouncing him - but nothing works. It’s these moments when I realize just how much patience I really have, and how extraordinarily taxing fatherhood can be. A couple times I’ve even had to walk away from him, and just let him cry. I know that some people would call me horrible for doing so, but that sound he makes when he’s in a full-on screaming fit is unbearable. It cuts right to my soul, and makes me feel like an utter failure as a parent. Rationality always prevails once the crisis has passed, and thankfully these moments are rare, but they are challenging to say the least.

14) Overall, having him in my life the past four months has been as exhilarating and satisfying as anything I’ve ever done. I am grateful for his good health, and feel like the various other activities in my life, including my various writing projects, have been placed into a new context. Things that used to stress me out seem a little less important, and much of my energy is now diverted into coaxing smiles, laughter and little squeals of delight from my son. It is a little sad how quickly his infancy has gone (though he still has a long way to go on his journey) but I am trying my best to appreciate each day.

1 comment:

Toya said...

I love reading these reflections, Marc. It's so cool hearing about parenthood from a dad's perspective. Jonah is a handsome guy!