One whole year on August 7th. Can it possibly be that one year has passed since our tiny, quiet bundle miraculously entered into our lives and is now that same one running around our house, scratching up the walls with her push toys, pointing (a.k.a. wanting) at everything in site, and tossing her bath toys out of the tub? How she has grown from a dimpled quiet infant to a smiling baby, and now a very curious and willful toddler. All in a timespan of just 365 days. It feels as if someone handed us a helpless infant just yesterday and suddenly flipped a switch and my child is finding her voice, her will, and the fact that being stubborn is a whole lot of fun! Reagan has reached every milestone that every parent anticipates for and I have indeed learned so much this past year.
I feel that my eyes were very much opened to what parenthood was going to look like. Most who know me, understand me enough to know that I am not naive when it comes to street smarts (for lack of a better term) as well as the fact that I am fairly (Ok…very) organized and detailed. Reagan didn’t really arrive by Stork after all. With adoption, comes a lot of planning and talking (and talking and more talking) far before we actually signed up with the adoption agency. Therefore, when Reagan made her appearance last year, I think I had a pretty good base logically of what being a Dad was going to look like. Life isn’t a sitcom after all. I knew there would be sleepless nights. I knew I wouldn’t look my best at times or feel my best. I knew the tasks were going to be tedious, tireless, albeit lonesome at times. And that was OK, because it all looked to be rewarding and I anticipated all of it. I wanted it. So how it all looked was the easy part. I spoke, blogged, read and studied for it. The logic was in place. What I missed though, was how it was going to feel. The receptivity of the feelings that I have experienced over the last year is mind blowing.
Love truly is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your very own. You feel that way when you first meet the mate for your soul. Nevertheless, you don’t fully grasp the meaning of it (I think) until you have a child to raise. This past year, I learned that a single action can cause Reagan’s life to veer off into a direction that destiny was never meant for it to go. Maybe that feeling is somewhat heightened because she is adopted. Nevertheless, I learned that our parenting was going to be a sort of compass for Reagan. Constantly guiding her on a daily basis into the direction that we feel she needs to veer towards. If the winds take her into a different direction, so be it. That has been one of the hardest lessons this last year. Was maintaining “control”. Sure, the first few months we called the shots. After the 9th month though, Reagan has reminded us that she is her own willful, independent person. Don’t misunderstand…the TV still isn’t going on despite those relentless questions of “but why” from those who don’t understand our parenting technique. However, I needed to see that infants grow. And they grow fast.
Being a stay-at-home-dad, like all stay-at-home-parents, is the hardest job there is. My apologies to anyone that I am insulting, including my partner who is the hardest working man I have ever known. Truly. I thank him every day for giving me this gift of time with our child. If it wasn’t for him, I would have missed the first time she rolled over, the first time she laughed, the very first step she took. I would have also missed being able to be a family man-someone who takes great pride in that role. Nonetheless, staying home is not easy. It is a 24 hour job. I work weekends as well as holidays. My mind is constantly “on” thinking of the baby, my partner, his family, my family, the house, cooking, cleaning, dinner, bills to pay, etc. The routine is the same every day. The routine can be completely different every day. It can be prosaic, long or fast, lonely. I have learned this past year that despite all of that, it is the best job I have ever had. Before Reagan, there were many times I would say to myself, “Those stay at home parents have it made! They have it so easy”. I have learned to say I am sorry to those stay at home parents.
Having a new family is hard on any relationship or marriage. Studies show that parents that have small children have higher rates of divorce and have higher rates of affairs. When you have small children, it’s so physically demanding. A night of sleep is so precious, that you think it doesn’t even exist anymore. Everyone is so quick to give the same answer: “Make time for your marriage and go out on a date night!” If my partner and I had time for date nights we would do that. He is busy working his ass off bringing income in for his newfound family and I am busy at home tending to what he’s providing. If we had time/energy of course we would do that (more often that is…because we do indeed get out despite what others see). However, right now that’s the most ridiculous answer because there is no extra time. I want to parent my child the best I possibly can in that I really want to give her the ability to have great relationships. I can do that by modeling a great relationship with my partner by being in front of her, by calling my partner my best friend, loving him publicly, give him kisses when he returns home from work, having family rituals at home. Not by going out on date nights, weekend getaways or having someone (like a nanny or family member) caretake my child (at this point that is) but by showing our child daily what it means to caretake for our own family unit. I feel it teaches her how to relate with another human being. That’s parenting and giving her skills she’ll need in the future. I think of it as a twofer-an ability to have great relationships as well as strengthening our family foundation.
What I have learned is that having a child has changed me in ways that no other experience would. I have been challenged to look at myself, put to rest things that didn’t work for me, place barriers where they most certainly needed to be placed, and stretch in ways that I might have been reticent to do. Everyone said the first year would be the hardest…that I would need help…advice…assistance…my house would be messy. My sensitive side took a hit when I heard all that because I knew deep within me they were all wrong. Therefore, I have also learned that not everyone is correct in the advice they give yet it is OK that they give it.
I learned that I love being a father, have loved creating my own family with my partner, and loved soaking in every moment with our daughter.
Reagan has reached every baby milestone that every parent looks forward to. From her first smile to walking. How this year has flown by all too quickly. My daughter, the one who hung on to my every word with rapt attention and who was content in my arms, is gone. The toddler that has taken over is the most adorable little being there ever was and watching her is pure fun, amusement and brings such joy. This birthday is such a celebration of her first year! It is also a celebration for my partner and I as parents, because looking back on posts from a year ago, we have had a most tremendous journey to reach Reagan. I repeat it over and over and over again, because its best to remember the struggled path it took to have her in our life. It is not cynical or negative. It is life. And with all that raw worry, anxiety, anticipation, we received the most blessed year filled with happiness and joy.
Happy 1st Birthday Reagan! May the years continue to enrich you in light and may our family grow with celebration after celebration of wonderful moments.