Let me be the first, at the start of this holiday season, to apologize to all the moms out there. I really didn’t have a clue. Then again, I do have somewhat of an excuse – I’m a Neanderthal.
By now, at tender age of 55, you think I’d know, but alas, I didn’t. Now I’m beginning to understand. The role of mom is just about impossible. And that’s on a good day.
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” It would be safe to say that over the next six weeks the preceding sentence will be read to children more than any other.
When Clement Moore penned that first line of his famous poem, there was one thing for certain: Mr. Moore didn’t have a 5-month-old living in his house. If he did, trust me, there would be a whole lot of stirring going on during the night.
A big strong firefighter for the last 27 years, I’ve now retired. During my career, I fought many fires and helped with many rescues – from a two-story cotton warehouse that burned for a month to a fully-loaded gasoline tanker truck burning in the middle of our downtown.
I’ve helped ferry folks across a rising river during Hurricane Katrina, carried countless others from crumpled cars at bottom of steep ravines during all hours of the night, and, yes, even gotten a few cats out of trees. But nothing has worn me out as much as watching Little One.
The greatest and most rewarding job in the world is being a mom. The second is being a grandparent having time to babysit grandchildren. (I would’ve been a better parent if I only had grandchildren first).
The young have children, and now I know why. When folks get my age, they just don’t have the energy. Over the last five months, I have learned a few things that could help those fellow grandparents and soon-to-be grandparents out there.
First, when baby goes down for a nap, it’s okay for you to take a nap. After all, when feeding baby, one of you must stay awake. And if you decided not to take that much needed nap, don’t worry. When you fall asleep feeding her and it drops out of your hand, the ensuing wailing will wake you up. (And no, I didn’t drop the baby, just the bottle.)
Second, no matter how many spit cloths you have, trust me, you don’t have enough. After changing baby’s clothes, there’s a good chance you probably need to change your shirt also. If not and you go all day without changing, only one baby will be getting hugs and kisses when The Wife gets home.
Third, and this one is really important to remember, changing baby can turn into an all-day event. Whereas a pee diaper is an emergency, while changing said pee diaper, a second pee diaper could somehow magically appear, along with an attack from those dreaded hiccups. This is all before clothes can be put back on.
Meanwhile, the baby can instantly turn purple-faced at any moment. (Note to new grandparents: avoid purple-faced babies at all cost. They will unnerve you.)
Green peas look just the same going in as coming out, but smell totally different. It’s fun to feed baby her first big spoonful of sweet potatoes. Not so much fun if she sneezes with a mouthful. Yes, I had to take a shower after the shower of orange.
Fourth, your scheduled feeding and playtime will not necessarily be the same as baby’s. Yep, just because you feed baby at 9 and then put her to bed at 10 doesn’t mean she will sleep until 4. She should, but that doesn’t mean she will.
Nope, she might be up at midnight, hungry. And no, she will not understand when you don’t want to play for the next two hours. If baby wants to play, then play you will.
Lastly, and not by any means least for all you fellow Neanderthals out there, this holiday season put down that remote and pick up the baby. Give your wife a much-needed break.
Trust me, if they have an infant, they’re walking around sleep deprived. Let them take a nap while you try to pick up, wash clothes, or cook with one arm holding a squirming little person. Trust me, it’s not as easy as they make it seem.
And as for me running out of energy – don’t worry. One toothless smile or hug from Little One and Grumpy Grandpa’s Daycare will be up and running once more, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Doors open wide for Little One. Even during the holidays.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is email@example.com. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]