I haven't written much in this space about my experience of parenting so far. I suppose that's partly out of reluctance to claim any special insight in such a well established and oft-documented part of the human adventure. Partly it's because much of the time I've spent in the past on writing has instead gone to parenting itself, or recovering from the lack of sleep involved therein. And partly it's because I only have mostly gushing, positive things to say about it, bordering on the disturbingly hyperbolic.
But here I am at a year into the experience - we celebrated A.'s first birthday last week with family and cupcakes - so it seems important to acknowledge that milestone here too.
First I'll get some of the clichés out of the way:
- Everything changes
- It's a miracle
- Sleep when they sleep
- It takes a village
- It gets easier
- Just when you find a routine, things change
- Hardest and most rewarding thing you've ever done
All of those have been true for us in some form or another. Details available upon request.
A point Kelly and I acknowledge often is how much harder parenting would be if it wasn't something you wanted or chose. We feel fortunate every day we get to parent A. because it is something we decided to do, knowing full well that it would be a challenge and a life-changing experience. My empathy for people who weren't ready to be parents, or for whom parenting is much different than they expected for whatever reasons in or out of their control, has grown significantly. For me and I think for Kelly, even on the hardest, most exhausting days of parenting, we still know and feel that there's no other way we'd want it to be.
See, gushing. I warned you. Ready for more?
A. is an amazing little human. She is happy and greets us and the people she loves with smiles and hugs. She enjoys getting even the most gruff-looking strangers to crack a smile, and generally loves being around people. She is observant, quick to learn and adventurous in putting her knowledge to use. She is expressive and increasingly directive in showing us what she wants. She is kind and open hearted. I feel like every day I get to be around her is a gift and a joy. Watching her change and grow has truly felt like I'm living out a miracle of life in slow motion.
The experience of becoming parents through adoption has been incredible and humbling. A.'s birth mother is amazing. Our relationship with her and having our lives become so quickly intertwined has been full of warmth, intentionality, generosity, kindness, a bold willingness to name and live into the difficult and dark parts of the adoption process, and a spirit of celebration and broad perspective about what it is we're doing here. We know that there has been and will be pain, confusion and heartache along the way, but she has kept love at the center of it all. When we tell people the story - the first time we met, how she chose us, being in the delivery room and being so close to our child so soon after birth, our subsequent interactions and visits, the things she's done to help A. get the best possible start in life - they gasp in wonder. We still gasp in wonder.
Hard parts? Okay, there are some. She still wakes in the night for comfort and/or food, and our rational day-time thinking about how to handle this sometimes turns to cloudy exasperation in the haze of interrupted sleep. My general calm and perspective about how the world works sometimes gives way to anxiety about how to protect A. from the bad things in the world, and more anxiety when I realize I shouldn't or can't. News stories about children being hurt or neglected hit me harder than ever before. I spend too much time wondering about developmental milestone this or percentile that. There are people who say insensitive things about adoption, parenting, gender stereotypes, and more...and mostly they are people who mean well, so it's hard to imagine how it will work when we encounter less well-meaning folks along the way. And so on.
But again, we've chosen this path. The moments of difficulty melt away quickly into the moments of joy. I am almost always able to maintain the perspective that no matter how "hard" I think things might be, with our resources and community of support they are so much easier for us than things are for so many other people in the world, parenting or not. We are so fortunate.
Confession: though I maintain a strong desire for people who have chosen to live child-free to have equal standing with those who choose parenting, there have been a few times now where we have fully and unabashedly claimed some public privileges mostly afforded only to parents. Faster airport security screening and boarding lines? Sure, we'll take it. Better seats on the plane to accommodate caring for our little one? Yup. Gracious help from total strangers getting the stroller on and off public transportation? Accepted. Making a scene and leaving a mess in restaurants? All the time, baby. Come at me with your judgment, I'm ready.
Seriously: I am really loving being a parent. It feels like it has come at just the right time in my life. I took on a lot of other transformative life experiences before this - surviving childhood and teenagerdom, graduating from college, starting and running a business, running for office, world travel, relationships and marriage, etc. I was ready for the next thing I could do to learn more about myself, become a better person, try to do something good in the world. A. came along and joining with Kelly to love her, nurture her, help her be the best version of herself she can be has been truly extraordinary.
Alright, enough gushing. There's a fabulous one-year-old somewhere around here that needs a hug/diaper change/play time/nap/walk/giggling fit. Let's go!