Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hopes of a New Father

Today marks 6 months since Anderson Sidney joined our family so I thought this 1/2 year milestone would be a good time to share something that I wrote in the hospital awaiting his arrival.

January 27, 2010

As I write this the sound of your erratic heartbeat fills the room as I watch Jill rest peacefully. So many thoughts, fears, hopes, anxieties fill my mind…about your future and the daunting task of parenting for which I am so simultaneously excited and intimidated. The literature and advice are abundant. I obviously can’t learn it all nor be the perfect parent. But here are some of my hopes for you.

I hope that you...

cultivate a love of nature that inspires you to both explore and enjoy it as well as protect and conserve it

develop the courage to take risks and the judgment to make good decisions

learn how to forgive yourself and all those around you, including your mother and me, who will surely disappoint and fail you

are ambitious - but not just professionally. I hope you set goals in your personal life, too. Learn a new language, volunteer, travel etc. I hope you learn the difference between a job and a vocation and pursue the latter.

are not embarrassed or ashamed to cry in front of others and learn that strength comes through vulnerability, intimacy from shared struggle

maintain your curiosity and develop a passion for learning that fuels your growth throughout your life

listen closely to the advice, criticism and reassurances you offer to others as it is the best indication of what you need to hear or feel

develop a healthy self-esteem and an even more healthy sense of humility

feel listened to and heard even when we disagree and that you will make the time and effort to really listen to others

learn to acknowledge when you are wrong and offer a genuine apology

not only accept the mysteries of life but actually embrace the beauty of the unknown rather than fearing it

spend less time trying to understand God and more time experiencing & reflecting something larger than yourself , where God is less subject and more verb, less belief and more action, less judgment and more forgiveness, that takes shape as beauty, gentleness, grace, comfort and of course, love

read & listen to different opinions and always hold loosely to what you’re convinced you know to be true

don’t ever forget to laugh – especially at yourself

experience “the hunch” about someone like I did about your mother

learn to walk through and with your grief rather than around or past it

experience friendship that overcomes the miles and time that so often separate us

become comfortable in silence – with yourselves and others

focus more on contributing rather than consuming

maintain a commitment to generosity that overcomes your resentment of being taking advantage of

find a way to embrace, integrate and share all of who you are and have experienced - the good and bad, successes and failures, joys and sorrows

worry less about proving yourself and more about being yourself

cultivate perseverance in pursuit of your dreams and the patience and acceptance required when life inevitably does not go as you planned

consider the wisdom and advice of others while also trusting your instincts

learn to win and lose graciously

appreciate the importance of reflection without being paralyzed by regret and self doubt

find the difficult balance between unselfishness and self-neglect. Taking care of yourself is the most effective way to maintain your ability to take care of others

have the ability to push yourself beyond your limits while still appreciating the serenity of a power nap

leave home, find yourself, succeed on your own and then choose to “come back home”

take pride in whatever you do without being tormented by perfectionism

root for the Tar Heels but more importantly that at some point you experience the indelible sense of connection to a transformative place, time, and experience like Chapel Hill was for me

enjoy hiking and camping but more importantly that you find a hobby/activity that replenishes your spirit and rejuvenates your soul

are captivated by the simplicity of a campfire but more importantly that you somehow experience the peaceful stillness that solitude and reflection offer

take the time to drive across the country and study abroad but more importantly that you make the time to explore your world in the ways that it fascinates you

appreciate the music of Patty Griffin and David Wilcox but more importantly that you find art, literature, interests that comfort, inspire and give voice to what you have trouble expressing

like to sing with your mother and me during long road trips in the car but more importantly that you’ll find someone with whom you can let your guard down, be silly, and playful

Above all, my goal as your father is to support and affirm all of who you are and become. My love for you is unconditional…except for that part about the Tar Heels ;) I don’t want you to become me I want you to become you – whatever and whoever that is. Sure, I hope that you enjoy some of the pleasures in life that bring me joy but I am even more eager to experience all the ways that you will shape and influence me as well. Oh, and one more thing - please don’t waste your time trying to earn my approval – just let me know if you don’t sense it or believe it. I’ll be glad to remind and reassure you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On the road again

After waking at 3:30 a.m. this morning to the sound of the alarm and not Anderson, I am writing from the plane on my way to Minneapolis for my first business trip as a mother. So far, so good as can be. Last night Anderson and I went through an abridged version of our evening routine (since returning to work, my time with Anderson is focused mainly in the evenings and includes bathtime and going to bed). He is a "natural eater" and seems to have taken to eating from a spoon as easily as he took to nursing. I gave him a small bottle just before bed and as I held him at my shoulder to burp him, he snuggled into my neck (that's my favorite) and started to fall asleep. Rather than moving on to our book reading, I just held him like that and shed a few tears as I thought about leaving him in the morning for my trip. I will only be gone for three days, and I didn't sob, but it was hard to think of leaving him this time and the many times that will occur in the coming months. It is also hard to leave Jonathan knowing how much he will be juggling as a single dad while I'm away. He will do it amazingly, I know, but it will be exhausting.

After my little cry, we did read the Going to Bed Book, sang my new favorite lullaby - Stay Awake from Mary Poppins, said our prayers, and A quietly went down for the night (or at least the next few hours). Then, I resumed packing and tried to get myself tired enough to go to sleep early.

In preparation for this momentous journey, I began weaning two weeks ago. I've been meaning to write a little bit about this because there was more emotion attached to it than I had anticipated. Yes, I know that an income is a good thing and I am ever grateful for my job, but I have to admit some resentment at needing to cut short my time nursing in order to begin leaving my family for days at a time. There's something peculiar about that. Add to this the fact that I actually enjoyed nursing, most of the time. It was something that only I could for A and I took a lot of pride in that. Sure, it was inconvenient at times - like when running errands - but on the whole, I relished this time with A, even in the middle of the night. There is something incredible about the whole process and something special about those times when I was all he needed to feel safe and secure and nourished. And in the times when it didn't come easily my empathy grew so much deeper for friends who tried valiantly to nurse and in the end were not able to do it. The bonds between mother and child can certainly be as strong through bottle feeding - one need only look at the relationship between my mother and me for confirmation of that - and perhaps things won't go as smoothly with our next child. But, with Anderson, as a brand new mother, nursing has been a gift. Now that he (and I) are fully weaned, it seems the end of a significant phase in our lives. It is liberating, I won't deny that, and it's nice not to have to sequester myself in a windowless office in order to pump a couple of times a day at work, but I was sad. My baby is growing up.

In this post, I also wanted to note some thoughts on traveling to Minnesota. Before starting my job, I had visited Minnesota only once on my cross country journey as a teenager. I had never been to Rochester and didn't realize that it was home to the Mayo Clinic until I saw a list of our medical school alumni and wondered why there was such a concentration of them in Rochester. My first trip to Rochester was last spring and it is so weird to be visiting a town that seemingly revolves around a world-famous medical institution. In the hotel on that trip, a family was checking in and I realized that they were most likely staying in Rochester so that one member of the family could be seen by the medical professionals at Mayo - was it a parent? Was it one of the children? The entire downtown area is a maze of Mayo buildings - I'm not sure if there is any other industry there. I was reminded of this just a few minutes ago when I glanced over at the woman seated across the aisle from me on the plane. She and her son are traveling together. She carried an old, hard shell briefcase and didn't appear to be a routine business traveler. As she was reviewing the contents of the manila folder on her seat-back tray, I noticed that there were several business cards stapled to the folder with what seemed to be medical logos on them. Are she and her son traveling to Rochester when they land in Minneapolis? Are they hoping for a miracle at Mayo? I will never know, but it did give me pause. I said a prayer for my family and for my friends, Jill and Chris, and was thankful that I am going to be visiting Rochester on business.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer Time: Hiking, Picking, Partying, and Eating

It's summertime and we are making the most of it (especially when the heat index is below 100). Over the last few weeks, we've had some wonderful adventures that we can share with you in pictures. Here is a picture of Anderson and Jonathan on A's very first hike around Radnor Lake - both boys look like they are having fun, don't they? I believe that you can click on this picture to open an album of photos documening our activities.

We've also gone blueberry picking way down in Henryville, TN (pronounced Hen-er-vul) at the Blueberries on the Buffalo farm. There, we were warmly greeted by farm owners Dan and Debbie who demonstrated the proper way to pick blueberries - "if they hold tight, they aren't ripe" - and encouraged us to taste as we picked. After sampling all four varieties, we settled on the "powder blues" - I'm sure that had nothing to do with the color that is quite similar to another shade of blue popular in our family. We also mixed some "premieres" in to the GALLON of berries that we took home with us. I quickly got online and found a blueberry cheesecake ice cream recipe (from Cooking Light - yippee!) and dug out an old recipe for berry cobbler. Up next, blueberry bran muffins and blueberry zucchini bread. Yummy!

We've been working the one year old birthday circuit as well with celebrations for neighbors Maggie and Will. And what is summer without some time in the pool? Jonathan and Anderson have been punching in some pool time with Jonathan's classmate, Laura, and her family. They were also kind enough to invite us to a 4th of July cookout at their house.

Finally, Anderson started eating solid foods on Sunday and literally "ate it up." We've thought he was ready for a while now, but I'm not sure that we were. He gave us all of the signs - watching us when we ate, trying to mimic us as we chewed, chewing on nearly everything he can get his hands on - and so when the big event finally happened he was a natural. We think that he actually ingested a good bit of the rice cereal, but you'll see that there was plenty on his face to make a great picture. We hope to post some video for you, soon.