Sunday, January 9, 2011

Everything I Need To Know, I Learned From A Three Month Old

We've all seen the posters hanging in kindergarten classrooms that proclaim that all of our necessary life lessons were learned before the age of 7. Statements such as "Don't hit people," or "Share things" are always at the top of the list in an attempt to sway your opinion as to the need for any further schooling. These posters have given rise to other renditions with many sources of complete knowledge added at the end: "My Dog," "Fishing," and even "The Wizard of Oz" (e.g. "Faith, Hope, and Love can work wonders, but ruby slippers can't hurt, either").

Our son, Brody, was born on October 2, 2010. As a result, January 2nd was a fairly big milestone. My son was three months old. I had been thinking of a a way to express the past quarter of a year in a blog post, and began to think of some of the things he has learned (holding the pacifier with no help, holding his head up, pulling things towards him, and grabbing the cat when it is too close). At the same time, I tried to think of the things that I had taught him (that his Dad is a nut). I soon realized that I wasn't the one teaching lessons, at this point. For some reason, the "All I Really Needed to Know..." posters kept running through my mind. I realized that instead of being the teacher, I was the pupil for three months. So, with respects to all the others, "All I really needed to know, I learned from a three month old."


Brody has always had a head full of hair. Even before he was born, a particular ultrasound technician could not stop talking about his hair. She pointed to it, circled it titled it on the computer screen (just in case we forgot what it was), and generally couldn't stop talking about it. Now, it seems like he has more than ever. As a result, it's sure to get a little messed up. When you live by the motto Sleep as you lie your hair rarely stays as it should. I've learned, though, that bad days, hair or otherwise, are not as bad as we make them out to be. It doesn't bother him at all that his hairstyle sometimes resembles a cross between Albert Einstein and Carlos Valderrama. He continues to smile and be happy. I've learned that, sometimes, we need just to smile and be happy, regardless of how bad the day is going. It seems to help it be not so bad.  


While he is a very good baby, and rarely cries, he does, on some occasions, get worked up. Sometimes, it happens quickly. Maybe he's preoccupied with the dog, or grinning at Mom, but his whole demeanor changes very quickly. He is grinning, then he stops, then he starts crying. If you don't know better, you might think you did something to him. You might try to soothe him with a pacifier, or stand up and walk with him, or you might lie him down and try to make him grin again. Nothing, however, works. It isn't until he gets that bottle that he stops all the fussing. He doesn't gradually stop, he immediately stops, and acts like nothing has ever been wrong. I've learned that, as much as we get worked up about things, sometimes we need to relax, have something to eat, and let everything calm down. Sure, our lives are filled with pressures and difficulties, but if we just slow down over dinner, or even a snack, those things might not be as bad as they first appeared. 


Anyone who has ever seen Brody smile will tell you: He doesn't do it half-heartedly. He doesn't give a grin out of one side of his face, or even give a fake smile. When he smiles, his whole face smiles. His eye brows stretch, his forehead pulls back, his head sometimes moves from side to side, his tongue sticks out, and he shows all of those beautiful... gums. He's working on the teeth thing, but that will come. I've learned that if you are going to do anything, you have to go with everything you have. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Don't go at it with half of the effort when all your effort makes it that much better. This world would be a much better place if we took a lesson from Brody: Smile with your whole face.


Obviously, Brody as a baby is going to have his attention drawn to everything, because everything is new. He is learning so much, though he is only 3 months old. He hasn't learned to use his hands like he will, so for now he uses them like you or I would use two sticks to pick up something. Whatever is the unfortunate object to be trapped between his arms is squeezed and slowly brought towards his face for closer examination. Only recently has a third step, Put into mouth, been added. I've learned from him that we should take the time to concentrate on the things that we consider small, simple, or mundane. Just because we have done things a thousand times, doesn't mean that they aren't important. Everything is still new to him, and we treated most of the things (and people) around us that way, our lives would have more joy in them. The simple things need as much concentration as the big things. 


I know that people ("experts" who write books) say that at some point during the next few months Brody will start recognizing people. With that recognition comes the "unrecognition" of many. For right now, I love the fact that Brody will let anyone hold him. It's as if he feels that, as long as it's all right with Mom and Dad, it's all right with him. Everyone who wants to hold him gets to do so. Usually each holder gets to enjoy a face smile (see #3 above) and might get a chance to rearrange some out of place wisps of hair (see #1 above). I know that this might soon vanish for a time and he will only let certain people hold him (which has its perks, too, as long as you are a member of the club), but for now I am learning that we shouldn't be strangers to people. It doesn't matter who someone is, where he comes from, or what he is wearing. Everyone deserves a smile and to feel like he is important. Brody knows that all ready. I guess I just need to relearn some things. 


I have tried my best, from the very beginning, to be one of those parents that changes diapers. Some (perhaps those of other generations) leave those to be done by someone else, more than likely the mother. I didn't want to do that. Kellee does so much around the house, preparing the food, cleaning up afterwards (and that's just with me!) that I want to do what I can. So, among the things I can do, is change diapers. Unfortunately, Brody is much better at making them than I am at changing them. The key about diapers is this: Avoid the big mess! Now I know when that last sentence is read that there will be two main reactions. The first will be from those parents of children who are older than Brody. The second will be from those who either have no children, or who have children who are younger than Brody. Those in the first group will say "You haven't seen anything, yet!" Agreed, parenthood is all about relativity, which is why his "big" messes are big. The second group will understand that when it comes to babies, messes are messes. They happen. They are unavoidable. The main thing is that you avoid the big ones. We have had a few: He has peed on the TV from his changing table. Then there are the times when the diaper isn't tight. Then Mommy gets to do one of the things she does: Laundry. With parenthood, of course, comes many messes. Some are your fault, some are not. The most important thing is that when they happen, you clean them up, even if they aren't your fault. 


From a very early age, Brody has been able to hold his head up very well. It isn't without its wobbles, but he tries. Now, he hardly moves when he sits upright while being held. While this isn't something one thinks about often, sometimes, holding our heads up is an accomplishment in and of itself. I've learned that sometimes we need to be satisfied with simply holding our heads up. We attempt so many things from day to day. Many of us challenge ourselves with things we aren't sure we can do. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. When the latter happens, we need to get back up and hold our heads up. Doing that is an accomplishment. 


Our daily routine is almost a habit by now. I get up with Brody (usually between 7 and 8:30) and let Kellee sleep for a while. Then she gets up and I go to work. I come home in the afternoon and we take turns with him until it is time for bed. (There are a lot of naps and meal times in there that I did not mention.)  Most of the time he likes having the attention. If I am watching TV or looking at something else, he will do everything he can to get me to look at him. I am, of course, happy to oblige and often rewarded with a face smile. Sometimes, however, he seems content to be left alone. He might be in his bouncy chair, lying on the bed, or placed snugly on a chair. He snaps out of it after a few minutes, but for that time, he just seems to be content. I've learned that we should sit and be still once in a while. Being still does not mean doing nothing. It might give us time to notice some of the small things we have been overlooking (see #4 above), present us with a way to clean up a big mess (#6), and more times than not, end with a face smile. 


Brody has grown to like his Bumbo. For those outside of "the know," a Bumbo is a seating apparatus that allows small children to sit up right. It gives them the support they need when they can't support themselves. Certainly, he will one day outgrow it. But, I know that there will be more Bumbos for him. They may not be blue, squishy, and small, but they will all support him. He will have friends, teachers, and, of course, lots of family members who will support him in whatever he does. I've learned that I should never outgrow my Bumbo. I have so many people around me that support me in the things that I do. Outgrowing them leave me without the support I need. We would all do well to recognize our Bumbos once in a while. And whatever we do, don't outgrow them. 


Without a family Brody wouldn't be here. So to say that family is important is kind of an understatement. But to see all of his family when they are with him is something very special. One can't help but acknowledge that family is important. In every way, I have learned that family is very important. Could you ask for anything more?
As one can quickly surmise, when it comes to imparting life lessons, I am a little behind. Not to worry, his mother and I have a few yet to teach. For now, however, this young 3 month old has taught me more than I thought he could have. It's just another reason why I am