December 2004. I was 14 months into married life and 3 months pregnant. I was hardly sporting anything resembling a baby bump. Mostly, I looked like I had eaten one too many tacos, but I posed for a profile photo with my hands cradling my stomach. We were enjoying a vacation with my parents and brother in Florida. On a lazy afternoon, Nathan and I found ourselves at a a used book store. That’s where I found my first parenting book: The Baby Whisperer. It didn’t take me long to read the book. I took it all in and was confident that I was now prepared to be the best mother with the most agreeable baby.
(I would be super happy if my stomach was this small right now)
I loved the books. I poured over What To Expect When You’re Expecting. I bought Nathan a book for father’s-to-be. I would check off all my pregnancy milestones as I devoured all the pregnancy and parenting books: morning sickness, super-human sense of smell, inability to stay awake through any movie or TV show while sitting at the couch at night, and irrational weeping at random times. I was by- the- book and fully expected my child to be as well.
On a WalMart trip, 7 1/2 months into this pregnancy, I triumphantly held up a new parenting book I hadn’t noticed previously. It was What To Expect The First Year. I had to have it. Could I please get it? Nathan agreed because it gave him leverage to pick up a new science fiction book for himself. That moment in WalMart was the very last by-the-book moment of my, thus far, short parenting career. A couple of hours later I was checking into the L&D floor of our hospital at 33 weeks and 4 days pregnant.
One day later, after giving our best effort with modern medicine, to convince this baby to be patient, I brought forth my first born son and wrapped him in a swaddling blanket and laid him in an incubator. . . sorry, the church-girl brain took over for a moment.
Ethan, in his tiny 4 lb, 11 oz body, was about to teach me some great big lessons.
The biggest lesson is this one:
Parenting is hard. Your baby is going to rock your world in the most amazing and wonderful and horrible ways. He might be a dreamy, easy baby. She might scream a lot and love to party in the middle of night while you husband does laps around the kitchen island to keep her quiet. In the end, the way God put your child together, and their own ideas about life are going to trump any parenting book you read.
Every day is a new chance for me to learn that I can only control myself. I offer lots of incentives to my kids to move them in the direction I want them to go, but their own little feet have to decide to walk that way. That’s hard for someone who likes control.
Maybe this is one way God reminds us to stay humble and on our knees. I know that’s been the case in this house. 11 years and I alternate between feeling crazy in love with my kids and driven crazy by their choices.
Happy Birthday, Ethan. I love you and am so proud of who you are and who you’re growing to be.
(I love how Ethan loves his little brother!)