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Alan Braunholtz: Now parenthood’s personal

Alan Braunholtz
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

I’ve always warily listened to those extolled joys of parenthood from friends who have become parents, cynically half-viewing their praises as comparable to the persuasive generosity of smokers with their cigarettes. They want company with their addiction.

As we’ve recently joined the breeders, I’m now in a position to comment truthfully before an 8-pound cherub-cheeked, swaddled bundle sweeps me off my feet with her big-eyed smile. Though I think her mind control is already starting and like smoking, it may be quite a pleasurable and expensive addiction.

“Your lives will change forever!” Well, yes, but everything is still similar but slightly skewed at the same time. It’s as if a door to a parallel universe you never saw opened up. It’s not better or worse, just different. And regardless of what happens, you can’t go back.

No longer having the luxury to procrastinate is my biggest hurdle. I sleep and eat at the baby’s convenience. If I put off eating or sleeping to surf the Internet, my window of opportunity closes quickly and firmly. Without Gayle, I’d probably have starved to death on the couch, clutching a fat baby.

Now that we’ve got the basic mechanics (changing, feeding, sleeping) under control, we can start the next parental process of worrying about her development. All the books say every baby is different so don’t worry, but then they leave a long list of what the “average” baby should be doing to torment you with. I’m guessing this worry of an unknowable future is common to most parents for the first 25 years or so.

At the moment, she has an incredible fascination with walls, stovepipes, bookcases and especially ceilings. She’ll look at anything but me. My brother-in-law thinks the explanation is a simple “she just doesn’t like you.” Instead we obsess about autism. But since she recently started smiling at the wall, we’ll upgrade to Aspergers.

On the plus side, this has reawakened my appreciation for ceilings and roofs.

We should be calmer with our worries over her, since she’s overcome such huge odds in merely being born with all the variables that had to align just so she could exist. A few more worries won’t make much difference. There’s no expectations or judgments with a baby. She is who she is, and we love her for that. Hopefully, we’ll remember to tell her this often when she grows out of her blameless baby years.

Although she didn’t come with an owner’s manual, she did arrive with a full set of warning lights and noises. Fewer things to check than a car, too: the problem-solving algorithm pretty much goes cuddle, change, food, other. Like a car, it’s this “other” category that is frustratingly unsolvable, except by moving.

Even at 11 weeks, kids today are impatient. They want to get going. A walk works wonders at muting the swaddled miniature tornado warning. Gayle thinks it’s some evolutionary adaptation, like “Mommy is running away, so I should shut up so as not to get eaten by whatever is chasing her.”

Cars work even better, though I’m not sure how that fits into Gayle’s evolutionary theory. Is it a new adaptation of fleeing the coming apocalypse or latent consumerism rearing its pretty head? Car trips are often hasty runs for diapers, formula or whatever essential we’ve run out of for the continued happiness of our cooing time bomb.

Daddy buying stuff for baby keeps most females (babies or otherwise) calm for awhile.

It’s sad if consumerism is hard-wired into our genes, as it’s the biggest threat to her future. And living here among Vail’s excess, it’s a more pointless game than usual to try and keep up with the Joneses.

Hopefully, the separation of love and judgment applies to teenagers as well as parents. Personally, I’d have a harder time forgiving the consumption of my future than not having a cool car.

That may be the biggest change of becoming a dad. My concerns for the future are less academic and more visceral now.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a column for the Daily. Send comments or questions to editor@vaildaily.com.


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