Becoming a parent is kind of like coming down with a severe
case of amnesia: You have no idea what just hit you (because you can’t remember
anything, duh) or what life was like before you had kids.
Life with a first baby? It’s also like the first-ever
case of requited love: You give of yourself completely, and lo! The feeling is
reciprocated at long last!
When my older daughter, affectionately known around these
parts as Petunia, was born nearly four years ago, my husband and I were
chronically, helplessly and hopelessly head over heels. We doted on her nonstop
and tended to her every shudder, sigh and bowel movement as if the entire
future of the Smithsonian depended on us documenting and preserving each soiled
We now know from experience that Peony won’t break if we don’t wash her pacifier every time it falls to the ground.
To be sure, mistakes were made along the way, much to our
hysteria as well as the dismay of our pediatrician office’s after-hours
answering service. But we were determined not to break, chip or bend her.
Petunia was our own personal Messiah, and we made daily offerings to her feet
(ensuring, of course, that even the tiny pinky toe’s nail was tenderly clipped)
without fail. Everything we screwed
up was noted guiltily but dutifully to ensure our next baby, Messiah Part Deux,
would not suffer the same fate.
The irony, of course, is that when you finally have that second child, you do exactly
none of that. Or anything else, really.
When our younger daughter, whom we lovingly nicknamed Peony
in utero, was born at the end of last summer, it never even crossed our minds
to do any of the stuff that we did — or didn’t do — with Petunia. It wasn’t for
lack of love. It was for lack of time. Because, frankly, who has the time? We have a preschooler who requires
more maintenance than the Gardens of Versailles. We’re lucky if we remember to
take Peony with us when we leave the house (she’s awfully quiet and we always
seem to be in a giant rush); fussing over packing up spare diapers and wipes is
the last thing on our mind.
Plus, the cat’s out of the bag: We now know from experience
that Peony won’t break if we don’t wash her pacifier every time it falls to the
ground before it goes back into her mouth. If she only gets bathed once a week,
who’s it hurting, really? (She’s a baby;
the only odor she emits is that of rainbows and shooting stars—both of which totally mask the four-day-old dried food
hiding in the folds of her neck.)
She doesn’t know the difference between the new stuffed
animals she received as baby gifts and the second-generation ones that her
older sister abused, battered and quite possibly peed on before being tossed
into our storage room. If she’s aware that her clothes were worn by three of
her cousins and sister before they crossed the threshold of her torso, she’s
declined thus far to indicate that she’s on to us.
Strap her into the high chair? Why? Because flying monkeys
might come along, sink their claws into her tiny shoulders and carry her off to
meet her doom at the Wicked Witch’s castle? Take video of her rolling over for
the first time? Pshaw. (Oh, wait, we
actually kind of wish we’d done that.)
As the younger of two children, I always swore I’d document my kids’ infancy equally. My sister’s
baby book was the size of the entire Encyclopedia Brittannica collection. Mine
was the size of a gonorrhea pamphlet at the gynecologist’s office.
Petunia’s baby book is a glorious
creation, really. The story of her conception is lovingly documented (although
not in a TMI kind of way. OK, maybe there’s a little too much information). My pregnancy cravings are noted liberally (hey, I was pregnant and hungry).
There are flattering photos of my burgeoning belly. The ultrasound pictures are
shown in logical progression, the best from each session lovingly applied to
Peony’s book will be just as
lovely, I’m sure. That is, if I ever get around to doing something about it.
The book is sitting in my office. The eventual contents of the book are sitting
next to it. Since neither Harry Potter, Harry Houdini nor osmosis have stepped
in to make the two factions unite as harmoniously as Simon and Garfunkel (on
stage, not off), I still have to do the work to put it all together (and I have
friends well-versed in Photoshop at the ready to create new photos of me
looking pregnant since we kind-of, sort-of failed to capture any images of me
during my entire pregnancy with Peony). Which I just know I’ll do. One of these
When I have the time, that is. In
fact, I expect its completion will coincide nicely with Peony’s college
graduation. It should make a nice gift. You know, assuming I remember to bring
it with me.