December 15, 2006

No lighthouse

When my childless friends ask what it's like to be parent, I often say that it's like being in a boat lost in fog, but then you figure some tiny thing and the fog clears to reveal a full moon over a calm sea.

Tonight was one of those nights.

Our son fell asleep normally, but kept waking up and crying for his mom. After the 3rd or 4th trip downstairs for my very pregnant, very tired wife, I volunteered to take a shift. The minute our son saw me instead of his mom, he started crying inconsolably.

Now if you've never seen a 2 year old cry, especially a kid like ours who is pure sugar, it's like watching all the sadness in the world poured into this little pup of a human being. There is no anger, no reproach, just pure unfiltered sorrow. So I try to hold him and he just turns away, giant tears streaming down his cheeks. "No daddy. Noooo..."

There is one school of parenting that says, offering comfort in these situations is exactly the wrong thing to do, that you need to steel yourself and be hard and that by going cold turkey the child will learn to sleep by himself. We tried that once or twice and our son sobbed so hard he started throwing up. He was a headbanger as an infant until we brought him to our bed. The headbanging stopped immediately. The kid is just a people person.

Anyway he was sobbing, crying for his mom, and I told him if he felt sad to hold my hand. His hand reached out, grabbed my finger and squeezed it hard. I asked him if he felt better, and he nodded. He turned to me and through a stream of alligator tears said, "Up. Up. Momma. Momma." I told him his mother needed to rest and eat dinner which led to more gulping heaving sobs. He turned away again. He was trying to keep it together, but not doing a very good job of it, with cycles of crying and wails. This went on for a long time and I was about to break down and call for Jenn. Then I whispered, "Hey, I'll hold you until your mom comes to bed, however long it takes. You can hold me too." He turned to me, gave me the tightest hug a kid his size can give, rested his forehead against mine, and held my face with both his hands. The tears stopped, he gave me a kiss, closed his eyes, and fell into deep slumber. That was all there was too it. He didn't want to be alone tonight. And who does really?

posted at 04:32 AM by raul

Filed under: on kids

TAGS: love (5) night (20) parenthood (3) sleep (8)


12/15/06 05:16 AM

beautifully told

12/15/06 12:32 PM

This is so beautiful, honest, and vulnerable, it made me tear up...

12/15/06 05:34 PM

I'm just in college and don't imagine I'll be married until 30 at the earliest, but if you put out a book on your experiences as a parent, I'd be first in line to buy it. You write about family in a way that makes me look forward to being a parent.

12/15/06 09:02 PM

raul, oh i love him. i hope he marries emma someday, okay?
also, hope to see you guys soon. love to jenn.
bekki lee

12/16/06 12:36 AM

Yur prob gonna hate me for this but I say let 'em cry. Otherwise yur looking at years of constant wake ups and bad sleep. Our 3 kids slept just fine after a few nights of crying. They're happy normal kids now. No scars. Luckily they forget this stuff.

12/17/06 02:42 PM

You tie these stories up so nicely. Really so lovely. Thank you for sharing these moments in the way that you do.

12/18/06 12:22 PM

Raul, I'm a little bothered by the phrase "childless friends." What about "child-free?" Not everyone wants kids. Not every parent cherishes their offsprinig. I agree that children can be a blessing bring great joy to people, but not having children is an ok option, too. I may becoming across as overreacting, but as someone who struggles with identity and societal expectations, I was struck (not in a good way) by "childless" since it used a negating suffix and connotes a less-than desirable condition like "tasteless," "hopeless," or "homeless."

You have many regular readers, of whom I am one. Your writing is exceptional, a gift I struggle not to covet.

12/18/06 12:52 PM

I mentally composed the post for a friend who wants children sometime in the future but has a hard time imagining herself as a parent. So by childless I meant I people who don't have kids... friends who aren't parents... but those were mouthfuls... there was no judgement. Being a parent is not for everyone and people who know that about themselves save themselves and others lifetimes of struggle.

12/19/06 06:03 AM

i know this situation. and you write about in unbelievable beauty.

12/19/06 07:39 AM

I think Jon is overreacting. I have a hairless terrier. I live on a graffitiless street, I am TVless. These are all good things. And following his logic if less always means loss wouldn't free imply freedom from some sort of bondage. Child-free by this scheme would imply that those who have kids live in a some sort of cage? Words are always a little bit loaded. In my circle we tend to be dismiss married people calling them 'the marrieds". People with kids are 'the marrieds with kids'... that's a stong insult in our house. So jon embrace your childless status, make it yours.

and raul no offense, you're one of the good marrieds, a special category of individual who we secretly aspire to become one day.

12/19/06 03:06 PM

here's what's sstrange. if this story had been told by a mother i don't think it would have much impact on me. but because it was told by a father, it makes me melty. I think we all wish our fathers could express themselves like this but most dads have such a hard time with words and emotions. forget about putting the two together.

12/22/06 11:54 PM

sleep with your child... he won't be a baby for long.

08/09/13 02:59 PM

The poet Andrés Eloy Blanco once wrote:
Cuando se tiene un hijo,
se tiene al hijo de la casa y al de la calle entera,
se tiene al que cabalga en el cuadril de la mendiga
y al del coche que empuja la institutriz inglesa
y al niño gringo que carga la criolla
y al niño blanco que carga la negra
y al niño indio que carga la india
y al niño negro que carga la tierra.
Cuando se tiene un hijo, se tiene el mundo adentro
y el corazón afuera.
Y cuando se tienen dos hijos
se tienen todos los hijos de la tierra,
los millones de hijos con que las tierras lloran,
con que las madres ríen, con que los mundos sueñan,
los que Paul Fort quería con las manos unidas
para que el mundo fuera la canción de una rueda,
los que el Hombre de Estado, que tiene un lindo niño,
quiere con Dios adentro y las tripas afuera,
los que escaparon de Herodes para caer en Hiroshima
entreabiertos los ojos, como los niños de la guerra,
porque basta para que salga toda la luz de un niño
una rendija china o una mirada japonesa...

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