I realized how much I’d changed in the nine months since my daughter’s birth just the other day. Down on the carpet in the living room, on a carpet covered with toys, I noticed a nick in the leg of the coffee table. A weak, far away feeling struggled to the surface: dammit! the coffee table! And then it faded. Looking at my smiling daughter and the catastrophic mess that has become our home, I quickly accepted a simple fact of parenthood. I will never, ever have order, cleanliness or nice things. Ever.
And I’m cool with that.
This one, we don’t have (unlike a few of the recent baby product recalls that we had in the house): the Baby Jogger LLC “Baby Jogger Jump Seat,” which the US Consumer Product Safety Commission says presents a “fall hazard.”
A fall hazard for a jogging stroller…well that just brings a bunch of nasty images to mind. Here’s the info on the recall:
Creepy. We’ve been in the baby gear business for nine months now, and this is the second product we’ve owned that’s come under a safety recall. First our baby monitor (which has a power cord that has been associated with–nightmare–strangulation) and now our jogging stroller, which has a strap that, again, can wrap around the baby in a frightening and obviously unsafe way. It’s the thought that some other parents had to have a horrific experience to lead to a recall that makes your heart hurt.
For us, the baby monitor’s camera sat on the wall with that cord running to the outlet, and the only thing that ever crossed my mind was that it looked bad, and our daughter could grab it and maybe knock the camera out of kilter, forcing a walk to the nursery to re-adjust. Why didn’t it cross my mind that she could become tangled in it?
I also never had the thought that something could go wrong with the jogging stroller, though I’ll be the first to tell you my wife and I, longtime once-a-year marathon runners, have not exactly been burning up the miles lately. That stroller’s been out for perhaps two runs in total. So I don’t feel quite as bad about never having a thought about a safety issue.
All the thinking and obsessing about safety and which product would be best for our baby, and still, there’s no way to avoid buying something that maybe isn’t quite as perfect and safe as you’d hope. The best way to move forward, I’m thinking, is to make sure parents who do notice something off about that baby monitor share their concerns. We’ve got to watch out for each other, because by the time a recall is announced, some families have been through hell.
So, as a first-time Dad, I’ll admit, there were times early on when I thought I had it all figured out. You know, I had survived pregnancy, childbirth (not to say that I did most of the work–I’m not, I’m just saying I got over the wow, I’m a Dad and I am responsible for this person phase) and the first few months of diapers and sleeplessness and so on. And so, I may have started to get a little full of myself.
And here’s one of the big ones: I had no idea why people kept giving us bibs. Gift after gift and all these bibs. And I’m thinking–in those early months, mind you–what’s the deal with bibs, anyway? I’ve got my trusty burp cloths and I have gotten used to spitup and drool and you know what? My kid just has no need for those awkward-looking bibs!
And then we got to solid food.
The phrase the pediatrician used with my wife and me at our daughter’s six-month checkup was “gross motor skills.” As in, your daughter’s really advanced in “gross motor skills.” That’s a doctorish way of saying she’s a little fast out of the gate with the crawling and, as of the other night, the standing up on her own.
My wife and I got home and were playing with our daughter on the couch. I walked off to crack a beer or something and my daughter wanted to watch, I guess. (It’s hard for her to take her eyes off her favorite parent, you know?) So she crawled toward the back cushions on the couch, grabbed them, and pulled herself up. My wife alerted me, and I turned around to see my daughter smiling like a crazy person.
I had to grow up so much last week. For the first time since my daughter’s birth, I had to leave home to start a new job–and in the process, change our child care options from ME to STRANGER. Hence, insomnia, anxiety, and a level of worry I’m fairly sure was nearing the red zone. And guilt. Lots of guilt.
It was an exhausting week, but we all made it–father, mother and daughter. I learned a few important things: first, that my daughter, who turns six months’ old Monday, is a pretty cool kid, and pretty resourceful even with changes that seem to knock her Mom and me flat with panic.
Father and daughter in the home office, November 7, 2010
For the first six months of my daughter’s life, I’ve been a stay-at-home Dad: working from my home office, alternating phone calls and computer work with diaper changes, warmed-up bottles and plenty of fun and games. It’s been perhaps the best time of my life. And in an instant, I have to go back to work.
A new opportunity came along that professionally made perfect sense, and it came upon us fast: I heard about the opportunity on Monday, and signed up on Friday, with a commitment to start work on Monday. Tomorrow. And that means for the first time in my daughter’s life, I won’t be sharing an office with her tomorrow. No more trying to balance a bottle in my left hand and a phone in my right. I hate the fact that I ever thought that was a bad experience. I wish I had known on the first day that it would only last a few months. I would’ve savored it so much more.