The Problem Solver’s Dilemma: You Can’t Fix Everything

 

FullSizeRender fix it

 

Take a closer look at the photo accompanying this Blog post, please.

I took the photo myself (you probably guessed that) – it is of one page taken from a 36 page instruction manual that came with our recently purchased, back-yard, “inexpensive” outdoor gas bbq grill. Careful eyes will detect that this photo contains no words.  Yes, that’s right, the grill assembly instructions came in pictorial form only. Zero narrative guidance!

As my spatial skills are measured in negative numbers, I am lucky that my clever husband was able to assemble our new gas bbq grill. Now we have a grill that works (our prior one died of old age) and I have Mr. Fix-It to thank for it.

Not to brag but I have my own Ms. Fix-It prowess.

I am a persistent solver of problems, a dedicated pursuer of solutions in the most difficult of situations and I don’t let little things like immensely irritating frustration with an inept bureaucratic system get in my way. (if any of you reading this happen to work at a certain unnamed health insurance company, yes, I am looking at you.)

Being a problem solver is one of my best skills. Unfortunately, the older I get, the more I realize how many things there are in my life (likely in yours too) that are simply NOT fixable.

1. Health:

As my Dad frequently likes to say if I complain to him about my latest woe, “if it is a problem that can be solved by money, it is not a problem” – his way of telling me that the only thing that matters in life (especially for him at age 92) is good health. All the $$$$ in the world cannot purchase a fix for serious illness. The most wealthy people in the world do get sick, can’t get better and die like the rest of us. This is somehow comforting to me as an avid reader of the obituary page.

2. Adult Kids:

Being a parent is a forever thing – but parenting is not.

Witness the dizzying number of articles, blogs and essays offering advice on fixing kid problems – from toddler temper tantrums to helping high school kids apply to college.

After age 22 or so, the “parenting” advice book trail goes cold. As it should. All of us who spent as many years as I did as charter members of the Let-Mom-Fix-Your-Problem-For-You parenting club, know we need to back off and let our adult kids resolve their own problems.

And as tempting as it may be, we should not offer “helpful” suggestions from afar unless requested to do so. Even if you have to tape your own mouth shut with duct tape (an option that has been recommended to me on more than one occasion), they don’t want to hear our advice. Very hard to watch if (when) they flounder or make less than wise life choices. I’m still a work in progress on this one.

3. Husband/Spouse/Partner:

When I met my husband in the early fall of our first year of graduate school, he was the proud owner of a pair of burnt orange, wide-wale, bell-bottom pants that stopped well north of his ankles. Some friends of ours still believe that I got involved with him in order to revise his wardrobe. Which I did, bit by bit, with those dreadful pants the first to go.

But other than his fashion choices, I have not succeeded in fixing very much about my husband, although I have tried mightily.

He has yet to understand that tossing his dirty clothes on the floor somewhere near the laundry basket is not the same as putting his dirty clothes actually inside the laundry basket. Over the 37 years of our marriage I specialized in constant reminders regarding this and other less than desirable habits; some might call it nagging. Much bickering and battling over (in retrospect) some very stupid stuff.

Then around age 60, each of us had our own major health scares. Amazing how near death experiences puts that pesky stuff into perspective!  I then decided that he was o.k. as is, that I no longer need to fix anything about him. (NOTE: I am not suggesting that you go out and have major health scares in order to resolve long-standing marital problems.)

***

But these non-fixable things – health, adult kids, our husbands/spouses/partners are all very personal.

There are, of course, many global matters that are possibly fixable. And I fear that I am not sufficiently engaged in these larger concerns. Spending much of my day writing is a very personal pursuit. Though I do my part on a few issues (young adult mental health awareness and advocacy, for one),  I see many people who are more active with the bigger picture, while I am perhaps too focused on a smaller, more local world.

Somewhere lies the balance, between the smaller stuff that we learn over the years is not fixable – and the larger stuff that we can try to fix with the same energies we once used on the smaller stuff.  Worth pondering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Adult Kids, Aging, Aging Parents, Baby Boomers, Family, Husbands, Marriage, Midlife, Parenting, Women, Writing, Young Adult Mental Health

Swimming Upstream in The Fountain of Youth

 

Bethany Beach 1977

This June an essay I wrote about my love for the beach was published in Delaware Beach Life magazine. Accompanying the article was a photo of me and my husband enjoying ourselves in the sun at Bethany Beach in 1977 where we shared a summer-house with a group of DC friends in our pre-marriage days.

A friend who saw the article, said she liked it, and then noticing the photo commented: “Wow, you look really young.”

I was 24 years old when the photo was taken. So yes, I was young.

And then she said, “You were so pretty.”

Uh, thanks, I guess, noting her use of the word were.

Yesterday when my DC writers group met – our prompt this month was “jealousy” –  the six of us, women ranging in age from 51 to 65, got to talking about what it means not just to get older, but to look older.  One of us had recently read – and was intrigued by – an article in Time magazine called “Nip. Tuck. Or Else. Why You Will Be Getting Cosmetic Procedures Even If You Don’t Really Want Them.”

Cheery title to read while in the dermatologist’s office for an annual check up, no?

If you are like me and my friend, and you visit the dermatologist once a year to have a complete (and I mean complete) body check-up for skin cancer, there likely comes that part after you put your clothes back on, when the dermatologist says (hopefully) that your skin is cancer-free – and then pointedly asks:

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Which in dermatology-speak is code for, are there any non-insurance-reimbursable, highly-overpriced, likely painful, attempted youth restoration procedures I can coax you into?

To which I always want to reply, “Do you have a inexpensive magic wand you could wave over my triple-chin to return it to single-size only?” (thick necks are a genetic blessing passed down to me by my forebears.)

But instead I answer,  “no thanks” and gladly leave the office with my aging skin intact.

Yesterday one of my writers’ group pals challenged the rest of us with the question – if you could, without significant expense or pain, would you want to go back to your face and body looking the way it did at age 35?

I voted “no”, I am content, minus the triple-chin thing, with the way I look, being one of those women who feel I have rightfully earned every single dent, sag and wrinkle.

But that said, I remember – with fondness – those days when I was pretty. And I remember when those days ended, too.

I left a big law firm at age 41 to join a smaller, more collegial one. A new colleague stopped by my office one day to tell me that a friend of his thought I was “hot”. I was thrilled. Being considered “hot” by a respectable male adult I didn’t know at age 41 was great.  While I had been married for 16 years and was sure my husband found me appealing, the word “hot” was not in his typical romantic vocabulary. I was still at the age where I enjoyed getting glances of admiration from strangers when I walked out onto the streets of downtown DC to get lunch each day.

Seven years later, as I was closer to age 50, while walking down the same streets with my then 16-year-old  daughter – who was and still is very pretty – I had to admit that the admiring glances were now directed to her, not to me. I had become just another one of those middle-age, female DC professional women who is considered “well-kept” or “attractive” but never again will she be called “hot”.

And I was – and still am – completely o.k. with that.

When my appearance stopped being the first thing that people noticed about me, it was a relief to no longer feel judged by superficial criteria. So when I bump into women who I haven’t seen in years at the movies or at the supermarket, and their faces resemble shiny, taut, waxen pale apples, I don’t get it. Whatever cosmetic procedure they had, they don’t look younger to me, they just look oddly frozen in time.

Perhaps, as one of my writers’ group friends wrote recently  –  they had, through a series of cosmetic procedures, “hopped on the look-young treadmill and couldn’t get off”?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m vain, I like to look nice, I care about my appearance. The counter on my bathroom sink has its’ full share of moisturizers  and facial oils and I wear sunscreen every day.  Why not try to preserve what I have, or at least enhance the aging gracefully process. Looking good feels good –   but I want to look good for my age.

Years ago I had my own turn looking hot, and it was fun while it lasted. But I have moved on. Let my millennial daughter and her lovely pals enjoy the limelight. Time for me to work only on my inner hotness. Much less costly – and definitely more meaningful for me to maintain.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Aging, daughters, Husbands, Law firm life, Midlife, Women, Women's Health, Working Moms, Writing

Let Me Tell You about My Grandchild (Or Not)

Is this the New Divide?

Haves and the Haves Nots.

the Latest TipToe Around Subject.

We have our first grandchild – you don’t. So let’s NOT talk about it?

It doesn’t seem so long ago that my group of female friends were thinking about getting pregnant. One by one, in our late 20’s or 30’s, most of us, but not all, decided to have children and created families. Years pass, our kids (finally) grow up and we start the wait from the silent (bite your lip hard) parental sidelines hoping that the life cycle repeats itself.

I am one of the lucky ones. Our daughter got married and less than three years later became a Mom. My husband and I were delighted with the unexpected (to us) news, thrilled to become among the first of our friends to achieve Grandparent-hood status.

Thrilled yes but with a tinge of guilt because just like years ago when some friends of ours got pregnant with ease while others had a much harder time – it turns out that new Grandparent-hood can be a sensitive subject.

This caught me off guard. I (naively?)  assumed that all of my friends would eagerly want to see every new photo and video of our adorable, brilliant and talented grandson a/k/a He Who Can Do No Wrong. And that they would rush to our house to meet him and get an in-close view of his toddler antics whenever he visits. Unbelievably, this has not happened.

I mean, is that right? Grandparent-hood is a VERY well deserved reward for all of the fun and games that your kids tortured you with during their growing up years.  Finally – a product of parenthood that emerges as all pleasure – your first grandchild.

And you are forced to keep most of the joy to yourself? It doesn’t seem fair.

Then I remember how before I got pregnant, some of my slightly older, new Mom friends would say things like “I can’t tell you how it really is” and “you have to experience it for yourself.”

Which I did. But my days of being a new Mom are now a blur. Much of the time I was too sleep deprived, too stressed by the tug of work v.s. family obligations to take delight in our growing babies. When I look back at early photos, my kids do look happy but I don’t see joy on my face, only exhaustion.  I  was too focused on the mechanics of raising kids – when’s the next nap, the next meal, bedtime, does she need a bath, that incessant need to get through and accomplish each task.

Exactly why being a new grandparent is so amazing. You’re not tired anymore! And you don’t internalize your grandchild’s daily needs as you did when you were a new Mom. Instead you get to live in the moment and actually enjoy it while it is happening.

Changing tiny diapers now seems like a privilege rather than a chore. Getting our grandson up from a nap is something to anticipate, not dread. When he holds out his arms to me, I beam.

I want to grab all of my friends by their arms and exclaim about being a new Grandmother –   “I can’t tell you how wonderful it really is” and “you have to experience it for yourself.”

But I can’t and I won’t. I don’t want to rub it in – in case it doesn’t happen for them. Which I hope it will. Because once they have hundreds of new grandchild photos and videos that they want to share, I promise to look at all of them. Or at least at some of them. If they look at mine, that is. Fair is fair, right?

7 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, Adult Kids, Aging, Baby Boomers, daughters, Empty Nest, Family, Female Friends, Midlife, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Relationships, Women, Working Moms

Anxious Teens and College Kids? – Don’t Put All The Blame on Parents

09_spring-lawn_campus-center

 

When our son was five or six years old we signed him up, as we did with his older sister, for a recreational league soccer team. Soccer is the Big Saturday Thing to do around here and while he was more of a Lego kid than a ball sports kid, we thought he should at least give soccer a try.

After all my husband was (is) quite the athlete, a nine-letter-man in high school. He hoped his stronger genes would outweigh my total lack of eye-hand coordination.

Hope springs eternal in parenting expectations.

On the first day of soccer practice our son wandered out onto the field and studied the trees and the landscape on the sidelines while the other kids ran around chasing the ball.

At next Saturday’s game, our son’s primary interest was again in the natural world around him. He didn’t seem to notice where the ball was – or indeed that there was a ball on the field.

Before the next Saturday rolled around, I asked him if he was enjoying learning the game of soccer. He admitted that he was not.

Is there anything about soccer that you like? anything at all?”

He replied –  “Yes, I like the orange sections at half-time.”

And that was the end of our son’s brief soccer career. (and the early confirmation of his life-long interest in biology, chemistry and cooking.)

This little life lesson from two decades ago taught me as nothing else has that our kids are not bendable, pre-cooked pretzels who we can shape according to our parental expectations.

So when I read the recent out-pouring of articles on overly-involved parents pushing their teens and college students into directions that their parents think are best for them, no matter what their kids think, I have to ask.

Has parenting changed that much since our son moved off the soccer field?

The cover of a recent New York Times book review featured no less than three books placing blame on parental shoulders:

  • “How to Raise an Adult – Break Free of the Over-Parenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success”
  • “The Prime of Life – A History of Modern Adulthood”
  • “Why Grow Up? – Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age”

Don’t get me wrong, I am the first to agree that “over-parenting” (short-hand for extreme parental interference/guidance a/k/a helicoptering) –  that done by a (I believe, very) small number of parents with “elite only” college admission as a laser-like focus end goal, can and does cause psychological harm to their teens.

But I doubt that parents bear as much blame for college student emotional distress as these authors and the media would have us believe.

“Expectational Anxiety” Has Many Sources.

Teens and young adults breathe in an air of “expectational anxiety” created by multiple sources.

This aura of great expectations can burden all kids; even those with the most independence-encouraging of parents feel its’ weight.

Kids as young as middle school age breathe in the “college is critical” message  – whispered by their eager-beaver classmates, from their high school teachers and counselors who remind them that college is just around the corner so grades really, really matter, they see ads for “get the highest score here” test prep companies, they hear the stories about how hard it is to get into the “right” college and how important it is to go to the best one you can – that college choice will make or break you for the rest of your life!! – from older siblings and friends.

Add in kid savvy about the economy, their awareness that the highest paying jobs are the most coveted, that tuition skyrockets unreasonably each year, and their status at the recipient end of the anxiety-producing mountains of  marketing and promotional materials that colleges and universities distribute with alarming frequency.

Top this all off with the explicit ridiculously high expectations set by college admission offices, the frequent lists and rankings of “top” colleges and purportedly “helpful” college advising websites that frequently use the word “Ivy” in their brand names.

Yes, teens and college students feel the weight of anxiety-producing expectations on their own shoulders, no matter what their parents may say or do – or not say or do.

Therefore a request: Mr. or Ms. Media, can you stop putting the blame so much on parents as a large, undifferentiated group?  Sure, a few parents qualify as micro-managers, helicoptering and over-controlling; these parents must be out there since you write about them so much – – but most parents of teens and college students are not like that – instead they try as hard as they can NOT to pressure their kids, to support them on their way to independent adulthood, to let them make informed choices of their own.

So would you just back off and aim your pointed pen at the many other culprits (see list above) that release this expectational anxiety into the air our kids and college students breathe. Parents do not deserve the blame being heaped on them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under College, College, Communications, Education, Parenting, Raising Kids, Social Media, Young Adult Mental Health

Why Are You Listening to Our Music?

iStock_000059045108_Medium

 

Driving home yesterday after a meeting, I stopped at a local farmers’ road-side stand, a wonderful little place that sets up shop about a mile from my house every summer where I like to pick up fresh corn (my husband can easily, if not stopped, consume six ears of corn in one short sitting) and stock up on local tomatoes for our nightly summer favorite salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and basil.

As I was looking over the fruit and vegetables, a woman standing a few feet away from me was asking questions about the peaches.

I over-heard her (I admit it, I enjoy eavesdropping; I learn a great deal that way.) in conversation with one of the high school students who staff the summer stand.

Were the peaches local? What was the difference in the two varieties? And then I heard the woman explain that she was trying to help her son eat more healthily, that they had just been at a nutrition counseling session.

The peach-shopping woman and I stood together to check-out, I was first in line, she was behind me. At the counter, both of us could hear the music coming from whatever device it was that the high school students had put by the scale they used to weigh the produce. A  recognizable Motown song was playing, one by The Supremes.

The woman (who, it wasn’t relevant until this point so I didn’t mention it, happened to be African-American) turned to the two high school students at the counter and remarked –

What are you doing listening to our music?”

One of the (both White, mentioning it here only because it seems relevant) high school students responded:

Oh, we like that music too.”

It was a quick exchange, no apparent rancor, seemingly just chit-chat but it stuck with me, left me wondering.

When I think of The Supremes, I think first of my husband  – who also happens to be White and who is from Detroit; he grew up there in the 1960’s so if you were to ask him about The Supremes, The Temptations or The Four Tops, he would likely call it “his” hometown music.

Yet the peach-shopping woman at the farmer’s stand had claimed Motown as “ours”, that it belonged to her group of people.

Ours vs Yours?

Can we ever truly bridge that divide?

Yesterday at my DC women’s writers group, we talked, as we always do, about what’s in the news, and we got into a discussion about the recent events of racial tension – Baltimore and Ferguson – and the horrific killings at the Charleston church.  I wanted to know what my women friends thought about my overheard farm stand conversation in the context of better understanding other people’s points of view.

(not sure it is relevant, but the women in my writer’s group, also happen to be White like me, but also happen, to be mostly former journalists, very socially aware, smart, kind and thoughtful people).

Dare I discuss this in my Blog, I asked them, without sounding like a naïve yet well-informed White, suburban woman who treads on the edge of things she doesn’t understand?

Well, yes I dare, because I will be the first to admit what I don’t understand. I was taken aback, honestly, when the woman at the farm stand labeled  Motown music as belonging to only a specific group of people, even if it was just a tossed off comment.

Perhaps she meant it only in a factual way.  I know that Motown music originated in the African-American community of Detroit, with Berry Gordy and the record label he founded in 1959. It was music that crossed racial lines to achieve national popularity. I remember dancing to many Motown songs at the Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties I attended as a young Jewish girl growing up.

I had always thought, without giving it too much thought, I admit, that Motown music was something that we universally shared – that African-Americans created it but that both African-Americans and Whites (not to mention people of many other races and ethnicities in the U.S. and abroad) could appreciate and love it.

So maybe I am making far too much of  a lightly meant, innocently overheard, remark. But it did stop me in my tracks. It forced me to delve more deeply, always a good thing – about how much I don’t get, how wide the gaps are, how many more conversations need to be had, how much more listening we need to do to bridge the barriers to racial understanding.

Surely though, we can all enjoy the same music? Perhaps not in the same way. Much to ponder here beyond the freshness of summer fruit and vegetables.

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

Filed under Communications, Female Friends, friendship, Women, Writing

Move Over Millennials! It’s Trivia Night and the Baby Boomers Have Arrived

craft beer

Why should millennials have all the fun?

I have recently been feeling decidedly not on trend so I talked with my friend, Martha. Our same age, millennial daughters both live in Big Cities where they always seem to be doing cool-sounding social activities on weeknights with their friends. What could we – two semi-retired but hardly retiring, women do to power up our “with-it” quotient?

Participate in “Barre to the Bar” – where you go from exercise to drinking? Our hips are no longer that flexible.

Join a Kickball team? Knees not so great either.

Trivia Night?  Now that’s a possibility.  Martha had been to a Trivia Night with her daughter in Chicago, it was fun, she said. We’re smart, we read newspapers, the old-fashioned print kind, we keep up with culture. We can do this. And we could even force  ask our husbands to join us.

Which is how Martha, her husband Rob, my husband JP and I found ourselves last night at a Tuesday Trivia Night in a local brew pub.

When we walked in, I scanned the room, yes, as expected, everyone else was of Millennial age. They didn’t even look up when we walked by them, so busy were they with their craft beers and their iPhones. The four of us settled in a quiet corner and asked for the Trivia Night score sheets. Rounds of questions in three categories.

Our first task (after ordering our own craft beers) was to come up with a team name. I suggested “The Geriatrics” but was overruled. We could be these kids’ parents, not their grandparents, I was told.  So we went back to our roots, to the 60’s – when we were growing up, of course none of us ever smoked (or even inhaled) marijuana, but the name “Purple Haze” seemed fitting nonetheless.

Promptly at 8 p.m. the M.C. started. 1st question – recent action movies. Not fans. We were sunk. 2nd question – the name of a Jay Z song. We know he is a rapper, but little else.

Then came a question on sitcoms; Martha correctly guessed the words to the first line of the song Phoebe sang in the intro to “Friends”. In the category of science, JP (who was pre-med before he discovered that blood was involved) knew right away that “Kelvin” was the name of the absolute temperature scale.

We were on a roll.

The six millennials sitting at the next table turned their heads to size us up for the first time. We were competition. YES!

Next round: international governments. We knew the name of the man who was prime minister of Israel in 1974 and again in 1992.  An unfair advantage since we were alive in 1974 and the millennials were not – but really… under what rock was the team living that came up with the answer of Yasser Arafat?

Geography”.  The names of the largest lakes on four continents. Hello, Lake Titicaca? (I was a Latin American studies major in college. Finally, that came in handy.)

We were in 5th place at half-time. The table of six millennials, in 4th place, huddled over their beers.

We slipped a bit on another current music question, then rebounded with correct answers to a sports award question (relief pitcher) and to a question about “Taxi” (a TV show that lasted from 1978 to 1983 before most of the young adults in the room were born.) Thank you, Tony Danza.

The tension mounted – we were now in 2nd place among the nine teams, one spot behind guess who, the millennial sextet at the next table. We heard them grumbling as they hunched down in concentration.

Last question –  category – the U.S. Economy –  and a tough, possibly trick,  question.

“In 27 of the 50 states, which state government employee earns the highest salary?”

We put our heads together. Not governors, they don’t make a lot. So think – what is it that 27 states have in common that the other 23 do not?

My husband and Rob jumped at it  – “football” – big state school football!  – where the head coaches get paid (IMHO) far more than they should.

That was it, we got the final answer right!  The six adjacent unhappy millennials did not. “Purple Haze”, the four baby boomers in the corner, WON on their first night out as a Trivia Team.

We cheered for ourselves since no one else did. An odd silence settled over the room. Were they all waiting for us to leave? We paid the bill, gratefully accepted our “one free beer on your next visit” coupons and left the bar.

The four of us stood outside – here it was, a weeknight, already 10 p.m., yet we were still wide awake, alert – and triumphant.

But at what cost?

Perhaps we had intruded onto sacred millennial turf with our lucky, first-time team victory. Rest assured, millennials, we don’t plan to embrace any of your other questionable habits – we will keep our landlines, ignore cross-fit and instagram is so not our thing.

Truce? Can we at least agree that the appeal of Trivia Night cuts across generations?

See you next Tuesday night, millennials. Study up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Adult Kids, Baby Boomers, College, daughters, Empty Nest, Female Friends, Husbands, Moms, Retirement, Semi-Retired, Women

That Dad Instinct

A Stack of White Disposable Diapers Isolated on a Black Background

 

I had planned to write for Father’s Day about my still wise-cracking, 100%-with-it-yet-92-year-old Dad, but then my husband, JP, piped up, only part in jest (I think):

“What about me? I’m the father of our children. You watched me, not him, becoming a Dad. Why don’t you talk about my fathering skills instead of reaching into your childhood memories?”

O.K., I’ll give it a try. But fair warning, JP, be careful what you wish for…

My husband and I didn’t rush into parenthood. We waited five years after our marriage, which caused JP’s “born in the old country” Aunt Dora to wring her hands and lament that we were not trying hard enough to have a baby. Which was true.

It was also true that we had no prior baby care experience.  Caught in a pinch without a babysitter one night, some slightly older friends asked us to watch their 6 month old. After tearing through several sets of those pesky little disposable diaper tabs, we sent the baby home bound up in bright blue masking tape. The baby’s mom thought our inability to fasten a diaper was hilarious; I thought we needed help.

So when I got pregnant, I said, “let’s take a class.” JP was reluctant; his approach, as always, let’s wing it, we’ll figure it out as we go. Look at our forebears he said, they managed parenting just fine without taking any classes.

I signed up for a “childbirth education” class at the hospital and dragged him along.

Where he did little to distinguish himself.  Unless you call not taking the class at all seriously a point of distinction.  JP knew I was pregnant (non-spoiler alert: he was there when that happened), but even though I was 8 months pregnant when the class began, he had not yet realized that a live human being was going to emerge at the end of the process.

I, on the other hand, had no plans to stay pregnant forever and listened most intently to what the childbirth education teacher said —  while my husband  snickered on the edge of the room as the teacher demonstrated labor breathing techniques.

All of us (except for you-know-who) diligently practiced, chanting aloud:

“hah, hah, woo” – “pant, pant, blow” – “hee, hee, who.”

Let’s just say it was fortunate I had to have a C-section with our first child.

On the supply side, JP was equally clueless. When the teacher asked the class how many diapers to expect a newborn baby would go through in a single day –

Hands shot up in the air.

My husband said: “Four? Six?”

When the teacher said – “10, possibly 12 or 14, maybe even more, diapers per day in the first few weeks” – I thought my husband might faint.

He almost did faint before the baby was born. He got very light-headed, I was later told, while they were prepping me for the C-section, and the nurses made him leave the room. Many months later I learned that the kind person stroking my forehead during the operation was not my loving husband, but a nurse, and that my woozy spouse had been sitting it out on a bench in the hall.

So not an optimal beginning. But I was to be surprised.

JP got the hang of the Dad thing very quickly, perhaps – dare I say this now that our kids are adults? –  – he latched onto early Dadhood with an easy self-confidence.

Thinking back on this, I wonder if this was because I was (am) a worrier and he was (is) not.

  • The baby had a fever, I was convinced she had appendicitis. He assumed it was a just a fever.
  • The baby wouldn’t eat. I thought she was getting sick. He said she wasn’t hungry.
  • The baby had colic. I went into high-panic mode. He just swooped her under his arm, and rocked her around the living room to very loud music (Donna Summer’s disco songs were an early favorite) and that would quiet her down.

And then as baby #2 came along and our kids grew older, JP continued to go with the flow – from kindergarten field trips to coaching basketball to college visits to beaming father of the bride.

How did my husband learn to be such a great Dad?

Not from books. As always the believer in finding the answers in books, I had stacks of them piled on my night table  (Dr. Spock, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Penelope Leach).

JP wouldn’t touch them.

Not from his Dad. Like mine, a great guy, but old school, 1950’s traditional model, the kind of Dad, who, while caring and loving, went off to work in the morning, expected to come home later in the day to find dinner on the table (it was) and left the less pleasant tasks of parenthood to their wives (who did not complain.)

Could it be that my husband was simply born with natural great Dad instincts?

But I won’t be getting him a “Father’s Day” card or setting up a BBQ in our backyard or buying him a nifty new gadget. Because as JP likes to remind me, he is not my Dad.  He is, however, proof, that to be a great Dad, you don’t need to take a class, read baby books or have a role model. You can just be present, stay involved and figure it out as you go along.

Our kids got very lucky. Hope yours did too.

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Baby Boomers, Family, Husbands, Marriage, Men vs Women, Midlife, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Women