3 Reactions to Baby

I've got this accessory now that goes with me everywhere. It's a conversation-starter at the very least and catalyst for fast stranger friendship at its best. As a social person who has a secret love of interacting with strangers, it's really the best. Only one person I've interacted with in the last three months has had zero reaction to the baby. Not even a glance, a passing mention or anything. It was bizarre, and actually the prompt for this post, because it was so out of line with my other experience. I didn't need him to react, but fact is, everyone else on the planet does.

The three most common reactions are:

1. "Awwww" or the non-verbal face that matches it
The most common, for obvious reasons. Not everyone has the luxury of interacting with me and my tiny human. Most often I am walking in public and, like a sea parting, strangers make a little melty face and just sigh at the show-stopper that is a brand new tiny baby.

2. Lots of questions and opinions
The least common, mostly because I don't usually engage, unless I'm really in the mood to be chatty. It's amazing, though, how quickly people can get from zero to advice giving. Or story recounting. I've had some spectacularly heartwarming conversations with people in the park and at the grocery store (it's not like I go so many places). And I'm pretty good at the smile and 'that's great' canned response for anything out of left field.

3. "My baby is ___"
My favorite, sometimes coupled with one of the other responses, but frequent and special enough to warrant its own line item. 'My baby is 1' 'My baby is 10' 'My baby just turned 55.' Maybe it's because all babies really do look alike. There's probably also some hormonal/genetic thing that responds to tiny babies. But I love it. To me it is the most genuine connection. We may have zero in common in our regular lives, but we both have had this shared experience of the first few months - of snuggles, of unknowns and guessing, of this deep, life-changing love that feels fresh and unmottled by bad behavior and negative relationships. And someday when Jamie is big or annoying or mad at me I will look at someone with a brand new one and remember.


The danger of expecations

Usually I would admit that I hold myself to too high of expectations for myself. I went to a therapist for a minute (I highly recommend it!) and the vast majority of our conversations centered on my self-perception of all the grand things I am and could do, and thus should do-- and the emotional repercussions of holding myself to grand things when shortcomings and reality come to bear. The long and short of it is that you feel bad.

I'd argue with the therapist that lowering expectations was not the answer. That you need a high bar even if you feel bad when you miss it. This isn't to say that I have a high bar in all areas of my life. I'm happy to call myself average in a number of areas of my life: messiness, handwriting, ability to care about local news, to name a few. But the height of ones expectations for a certain experience or performance or ability or whatever it is shouldn't necessarily stay where it subconsciously lands. Meaning, sometimes we place the bar too high- we expect too much out of ourselves or others. And sometimes it's too low. At least in my crazy brain, a big part of life is making sure I'm measuring myself against a bar that I find fair. Making sure I'm conscientious about how I'm counting myself successful.

I've entered mommyland now, which is, by all accounts, a highly emotional world of comparison, advice, and constant threat of regret or failure. And I'm articulating it now I guess as a reminder to myself to set my bar where I want it. No reason to push for things I don't actually find important. All the reason to push for things that I do find important, even if no one else does.


Loving Parents, three ways

Today Jamie was blessed at church. It was an occasion I worried more about than I probably need to have. Not much good comes from trying to make a special occasion any more special than it is inherently. You'd think I'd know that by now. Porter blessed Jamie with good things- that he'll feel love all his life, follow Christ's example of compassion, find truth and beauty wherever he can. And that he'll be a good boy.

The words were wonderful, as I'd hoped and expected. What was just as wonderful but took me by surprise though was the overwhelming sense of love I felt linking generations. Throughout the church meeting after the blessing my mom sat beside me rubbing my arm the way she does when she's feeling emotional and proud. Porter's mom sat beside him with her arm around his shoulder. And Porter and I sat holding Jamie, affectionate as ever. There was no expressions of I Love You's or profound words about parenthood (until now with these such profound words), but I couldn't help but feel like five people on our little five foot wide span of church pew were a little pocket of wonderful, set apart from the rest of the world.

Family for the win.