About a month after Sarah and I moved into the city of Chicago we experienced an unexpected life change. Sarah got pregnant again.
This was not planned. This was not anticipated (although I had suspected it for a couple weeks before Sarah officially found out). And now I have spent the last 7 months trying to wrap my head around the reality that we are going to have another baby. Our days of being able to sleep through the night are coming quickly to a close. We have been very blessed by the fact that our first son, Micah, almost always sleeps 12 hours straight without waking up at night. We constantly try to remind ourselves how much of a blessing this is and we try not to take it for granted.
When we found out it was almost humorous. We had given so much of Micah’s old clothes away because we were sure we were not going to have another baby for quite a while. When we moved into our neighborhood we noticed that nearly every woman was pushing a double stroller, or if it happened to be a single stroller she was pushing it while being very pregnant. Because of this, I told Sarah that her pregnancy must have been due to something that is in the water where we live.
We’re having another boy, which in many respects is a great thing. For one, Micah will have a brother very close to him in age, only 18 months apart. Hopefully, they’ll become great friends. Two, we’ll be able to use a lot of Micah’s old clothes and things for the new baby. Three, we know what a boy is like already, so at least we’re working from something familiar.
But there are major differences between prepping for your first child and prepping for your second child. With Sarah’s first pregnancy everyone was so incredibly excited for us. Sarah had multiple baby showers. Everything we needed for Micah was given to us by friends, relatives, and our church family. Even the expensive items, like Micah’s bed, carseat, and stroller. We had so many baby outfits, we barely ever had to do laundry for the kid.
Child number two — not the same story. Instead of statements of congratulations, Sarah has received comments like, “You’re pregnant, again?” We’ve received gifts for this baby from only one person. (Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t EXPECT people to get us gifts for the second baby, it’s just interesting to note how everyone seems to treat it so differently that the first pregnancy).
But before I am too critical of other people, I probably should point the finger back at ourselves. My wife’s and my feelings and reactions have been so mixed with this pregnancy. Of course, a part of us is so incredibly grateful that we are healthy and have the ability to create healthy babies. It’s an amazing miracle. It really is. And knowing so many people who have stories where they either struggle to get pregnant or suffer through miscarriages, we realize the blessing it is to be able to have children like we are. So we are thankful. At the same time, this is terrifying. It’s hard enough keeping up with the one kid that we have. He’s a non-stop ball of energy. What’s that going to look like when we have the responsibility of taking care of another baby at the same time? At the same time my wife and I wonder how we can even afford a second child. My wife is a nurse, and I am a stay-at-home dad. I barely bring in any kind of income. I recently started a web design company with a friend, but that is very minimally financially beneficial at the moment. Here in the States, maternity leave is kind of a bad situation. We’ve set it up so that she will get 50% of her paycheck for a total of six weeks. That’s just not going to cut it. When we moved into the city we took an apartment that was more expensive than we had planned with the thought that we wouldn’t have any major additional expenses coming up. Then we found out about the pregnancy. So now I have to be on the lookout for a job that can bring me some kind of money flow.
So here we are now, about a month and a half away from child number two (if everything goes as planned). Time to enter into our new stage of life: Seaman family, party of four.
Today Sarah and I took Micah to the park for the first time. He experienced his first swing, he played in the grass, and even went down the slide with mommy. The weather was perfect. Kids were running around playing at the playground. Summer is definitely here.
Although its not out of the ordinary for young families to go together to a park, I think today for me will stand in my mind as one of my favorite days I’ve ever had. Spending the day with my family was…I don’t really have a word to describe it. It was wonderful. As we were sitting in the grass, with Micah crawling around, I kind of thought to myself, “Is this really my life?” It’s incredible.
I am so blessed.
It’s interesting to see people’s reactions when I tell them that I am a stay-at-home dad. One time when I was getting my haircut the woman cutting my hair asked what I do. I told her that I was a stay-at-home dad.
“Oh! Is your child waiting for you in the car?!” She said with a bit of a panic. (Never a good thing for someone cutting your hair).
“No. My child is at home with his mom for the moment,” I replied.
“Oh, ok. Good. I was worried there for a minute.”
Do you think she would have asked that same question to a stay-at-home mom? I highly doubt it.
NPR recently aired a short segment on stay-at-home dads that I thought was pretty interesting.
Hurray to challenging traditional gender roles. Guys can be nurturing, you know. They can stay home and take care of kids just like women can. And even though Sarah is an incredible mother, I know that she is also an incredible nurse. I will support her in every business endeavor she feels that she should seek. Women can be the breadwinners, too.
We should think through what society has labeled as what is appropriate for a man and what is appropriate for a women. Why are things the way they are? Is it simply tradition? Is it even a good tradition? Women get paid 70 cents for every dollar a man makes at that same job. That’s been pretty traditional ever since women have been in the work force. Should we keep that, too?
Absolutely not. We need to think through what it means to be a man, and what it means to be a woman much more that we do. It’s amazing how Micah (my eighth month old) is already being taught what it means to be a boy versus being a girl. Just yesterday when we were outside at a friend’s place for a BBQ he was crawling and face planted into the dirt. Everyone just laughed and said, “Yup. He’s all boy!” What does that even mean?
What I do know is that as I am becoming more and more aware of the expectations that are put on me as a man, I am also learning the expectations that I am putting on my son to live into our ideals of what it means to be a man. Even if Micah cannot talk yet, I tell him how I am feeling. I tell him about my emotions because, you know, men have those things, too.
Anyway. Listen to NPR’s segment. It’s interesting.
Micah is becoming a lot more clingy these days. I like it, mostly. It’s cute. He follows me all around the apartment, whimpering as he crawls along. I can’t put him in his pack and play because he constantly wants to be held. If he plays with his toys on the floor, it’s just a few moments before he doesn’t want to play with them anymore and he’s tugging at my pantlegs wanting to be held. I want to tell him no, but when he looks up at me with that cute face of his, how can I?
I’m doomed as a parent. He’s going to get whatever he wants!
I am a stay at home dad, so I spend most of my time these days with my son. He is cute, so naturally I want to take pictures of him. It only made sense for my first black and white picture of this project to be of him.
This picture is of Micah in his pack and play. He is able to move around and crawl as of the past couple days, so to keep him safe we put him in his pack and play. He seems quite content in there.
As the title of my blog indicates, I believe we oftentimes need to take a step back from our busy day-to-day lives in order to gain perspective and wisdom. We live in a busy society, and when we fail to reflect upon what we are experiencing we lose out on life lessons, insights, and other precious moments. So, in light of this, I am planning to have a weekly “Sunday Step Back” in which I post a picture (or maybe more) that I have taken along with a simple reflection from my own life.
This is my son. I’ve talked about him quite a bit on my blog, especially the anticipation of his coming into this world. I am studying for a MA in Counseling right now. I spend many hours reading about psychological issues, theories in counseling therapy, and all kinds of mental health issues. I must say, it’s a fascinating field of study. You can gain a lot of insight just from reading books about theories within counseling, but at the same time it’s absolutely horrifying. It’s not like it was in high school psychology class when everyone read about all the various mental and personality disorders and then self-diagnosed themselves with all kinds of rare mental disorders. It’s not like that. It’s more of reflecting on the dysfunction of various relationships in our lives, especially within our families. That’s where things get scary.
What’s horrifying about psychoanalytic psychology is that you begin to realize how much influence you have over your children’s development. And how much influence our parent’s had over our own development. It’s quite incredible. Sometimes I think that some of the things I read about are a bit farfetched, but generally speaking there is some solid empirical data to back up much of psychology’s claims to the various stages of development in children (and adults for that matter). How I interact with Micah (my son) is incredibly important. The more I read, the more I realize that.
So my goal is simply to be as consistently loving and caring for Micah as possible and to be as honest and transparent with him as I possibly can be as he grows older. One thing is for sure, studying counseling has made me a better husband and father, and a better person overall. My relationships with my friends and family have been much more meaningful and healthy since I have gained insight about myself and about how we as humans relate to one another.
So as Micah grows and discovers new things about this world and about other people I hope that I can be a consistent guide and example for him, helping him understand the complexities of what it means to grow up in this world. What it means to be a boy. What it means to be an American. What it means to have a mommy and a daddy who love each other. What it means to love other people. What it means to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God.
Today I ran some errands for Valentine’s Day. I had my (almost) five month old son in the back seat babbling to himself throughout the ride. As I was driving around I was reminded of what a blessing it was to have a healthy, handsome young baby boy riding around with me. Not just any baby boy, but MY baby boy. I couldn’t help but be a bit overwhelmed by my almost forgetting how much of a blessing he is. How could I already be taking him for granted? But there I was driving down the road realizing that I have indeed been taking Micah for granted.
I went out to pick up some cream and some mozzarella cheese for dinner tonight. I had told my wife that instead of going out tonight I would make her and myself dinner. I don’t usually cook. I can, but rarely feel inspired to. I have a simple to please palate and I usually am satisfied with macaroni and cheese or tuna salad if I cook. But Sarah does almost all the cooking, and she works hard at work all day so I thought it might be nice if I cooked us some dinner for once. I decided to make Chicken Parmesan. It ended up tasting quite nice, and it wasn’t too hard to make. (A key ingredient? Really nice olive oil from a friend that I fried the battered chicken in. YUM!)
I had ordered some flowers from a local flower shop. Well, three red carnations to be specific. I always feel kind of goofy buying three red carnations for Valentine’s Day. They are some of the cheapest flowers to buy. But it’s a tradition. When I was in high school our school offered a flower delivery service during lunch. You could choose from a various number of colors, with each color having a meaning attached to them. Purple meant simply “Happy Valentine’s Day,” yellow meant “friends,” while red meant “true love.” Numbers meant things too, increments of three being significant. At the time I had recently been flirting with a girl named Sarah. She was two years younger than I was. I was a Junior and she was a Freshman. I thought this might be a good opportunity to let her know I liked her. I bought her three red carnations and had them sent to her homeroom. I didn’t let her know they were from me, though. I wanted to keep her guessing. I wanted to see if she would guess they were from me.
This was back in the day when people used Xanga. This predates Facebook. I had been secretly stalking her Xanga and I’ll never forget her trying to figure out who had sent her the flowers.
Anyway, ever since that first Valentine’s Day in 2004 I have been sending her three red carnations every year without fail. Some years have been harder than others considering that we have been almost 1000 miles away at certain points of our relationship. But every year I have them delivered to her without her noticing where they came from. It’s basically our one tradition…and my attempt to be romantic. 🙂
Today I went to pick the three red carnations up from the local flower shop. I brought Micah in with me to pick them up. All the women in the shop were going crazy for Micah. Some pleaded for me to let him stay there at the store. A few gave me the typical “Oh, he’ll grow up before you know it” and “The next thing you know he’ll be in college.” I paid the $4.5o for the flowers (thank goodness it’s the thought that counts!) and left the store.
Sarah was as happy as ever.
As I was driving out of the parking lot I came to a crosswalk near our local Metra station. As I was sitting at the red light a little girl and her dad were crossing through the crosswalk. The little girl, probably about six, had a little rolling suitcase behind her. She skipped and hopped trailing a few feet behind her dad. She stopped and waived at me and said, “HI! Thank you for stopping. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!” And then she continued on, skipping a bit faster to catch up with her dad. Her dad didn’t even look back, he just kept up at his focused pace, probably concerned about making the train on time.
But when she turned and waived to me I waived back, and couldn’t hold back the big grin that she got from me. What a cute little girl. What an innocent and carefree little girl. But as I thought about how happy she was I found my eyes welling up with tears. It surprised me. But I guess I was just so overcome with her innocence. She was genuinely happy and really wishing me a happy Valentine’s Day. She skipped like there wasn’t a thing wrong in her life, like there wasn’t a thing wrong in this world. I quickly was overcome with the the contrast of her genuine greeting and the cynicism I see in so many people these days, including myself. I was overcome by the thought that one day my sweet little boy will ask me why bad things happen in this world. He’ll be confused about the evil that exists in this world. And some day I’ll have to try and explain such things to that innocent little boy. The same thing goes for that little girl. Some day soon she’ll realize how many horrible realities there are out there in the “real world” and we adults will have to enlighten these young innocent hearts.
My eyes stung as I pulled away through the intersection listening to my son buzz his lips and babble to himself. Indeed, he’ll grow up before I know it. I roll my eyes at such statements because sometimes the days seem very long, and the nights even longer. Micah may cry a lot throughout a day, but he’s not crying because he is confused by this complex world. He’s only crying because he is tired, or hungry, or wants to be held. That’s it. And I must be thankful for these short days of innocence.