That's what he said
I’ve been writing this column for a year now, and every once in awhile it occurs to me how necessarily “mom-centric” it is. “I wonder what Nick (my husband) would say about this?” I often think as I mull over the challenges of the newborn period or choosing a childcare provider.
And although we talk about all things baby-related frequently, we’ve never had a formal conversation about it. So this month, I posed a variety of questions about parenting to my spouse. What follows is just an excerpt of what we discussed.
What do you remember about the newborn period with our daughter Lydia?
Lydia had a severe case of colic. After listening to every well-intentioned bit of advice and trying countless things, I think I can safely say that nobody has any idea how to cure, or tame, or even mitigate the dreaded colic. We never found anything that could make Lydia stop screaming. She simply screamed for three months and when she was done [with colic] she stopped.
It's pretty fortunate that babies start doing all the fun stuff (smiling, noticing things, not screaming) after about three months. If the newborn phase went on much longer than that, I'm not sure how many two-kid families there would be.
How did the reality of being a parent differ from what you might have been expecting?
One thing that surprised me is how much actual, literal fun is involved in hanging out with one's baby/toddler. Before having Lydia, I assumed (correctly, as it turns out) that hanging out with one's kid would foment deep feelings of love, cosmic one-ness with the universe, etc. But I always thought that if I wanted actual fun, I'd probably have to ditch the kid and go out to a bar or something.
So it’s been somewhat of a surprise that when I get to choose between hanging out with my daughter at home or going out with adults, the prospect of hanging out with Lydia often seems like an equally fun option—a different kind of fun, for sure, but actual, real fun nonetheless. I always end up rolling around on the floor with her, chasing her around the living room, making up little songs…basically playing, something one doesn't get to do as much later on in life.
Have you ever felt judged for your way of being a parent?
I stopped frequenting the coffee shop across the street from our house largely because the manager there was such an obnoxious provider of unasked-for parenting “advice.” When Lydia was still a baby, I used to grab her in the mornings whenever I made a coffee run. I would simply pick her up in my arms, walk the quarter-block over to the cafe, plop her on the counter where she would gurgle cutely, order the coffee, pay, and leave.
This sequence of events seemed to really irritate the joyless barista. One morning as I was handing over my money she demanded to know why I didn't carry Lydia in a Baby Bjorn. I replied, "Uh...because I live literally across the street.” She countered with, "They're super easy to put on, even for short trips—you should try one." Feeling put upon, I told her I didn't like them and that I wouldn't be using one to go to her coffee shop, ever.
What do you like about being a parent?
I really like that it’s made me less self-absorbed. After having Lydia, all of a sudden there were large swaths of time during which I would not think about my own situation at all. If you have a baby that needs to be bounced up and down or else she'll start crying, you probably aren't going to find yourself lost in some self-centered, circular thought pattern revolving around the relevance of some art project you were involved in. Instead, you will be probably be all-consumed with trying to find the correct way to bounce your girl to make her stop crying. That change in thought patterns has been refreshing.
How do you feel about
having another baby?
It's pretty easy to see how lots of second kids end up somewhat forgotten. For better or for worse, I've been completely attuned to every little phase of Lydia's development. There is no way I'm going to be able to keep up that level of energy for baby #2. I was a middle child, so hopefully I able to notice and remedy the situation if/when I start treating little baby #2 in a more generic way than Lydia.
Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband,
Nick, and daughter, Lydia. Send questions or comments to