Let me confess that I am not the most patient person in the world. That is not to say that I do not do well with waiting. I actually think I am rather good at waiting for things – just give me a time or a date and I can wait it out as good as anybody and perhaps better than most. I like it when there is a plan and things go according to that plan. So if the plan involves waiting then I see that as just something that needs to happen.
Give me a plan and I will be just fine.
So here is my problem: lesson one of having a baby – babies don’t do plans. Babies think about plans like they think about trigonometry – they don’t. They do not know about your plan and they do not care about your plan. They will literally defecate on your plan and give you an evil sweet smile while doing it.
And it is here that I discover my lack of patience.
Last Tuesday was the day that my wife went back to work after maternity leave. I was able to rearrange my schedule so that Elliana is with me on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tuesday was thus the first time Elliana was stuck with me – and just me – for a whole day.
We gave it all a dry run on Saturday. I fed her with the bottle and she did great. I put her down for a nap. We got along just well on Saturday with Amanda watching from a distance.
Then Tuesday hit. The plan was that Elliana would sleep in until at least 8 or 8:30 which would give me some quiet time in the morning to read. You already know where this is going: 7:20am and it’s “Rise and shine and…too early!!!!” I get her up and changed and everything was going well. Then I warmed up the bottle and apparently Elliana decided to go on bottle strike between Saturday and Tuesday because she was not having it. After only four months as a father, I would not say that I am proficient in baby, but I am pretty sure she was telling me, “I’m not a dummy – this ain’t a boob, and you ain’t mommy” (I am pretty sure there were some expletives in there as well but I decided to censor the translation).
So we begin the day and she is tired and hungry. Tired and hungry babies tend to be loud babies. But I know how to deal with this! She loves her pacifiers! Pacifiers, well, they pacify her. And…nope. Elliana seems to have decided that she’s a “big girl now” and does not need pacifiers. If she has something to say, she will say it and she will not be pacified. She is a strong, independent baby who don’t need no pacifier.
And that was just the first hour.
Things continued in much the same way for the rest of the day, though I was able to rock her to sleep and keep her asleep long enough to watch an afternoon movie. But by the time 5:00 rolled around, we had both lost our patience with each other. I was much too slow to read her cues. I was inefficient at warming up her bottles, changing her diapers, and just about everything else. And she was – well, I suppose she was just a baby about the whole thing.
We were sitting on the couch waiting through the final hour for mommy to get home and were both exhausted. Elliana was screaming as she had much of the day and I was staring at the ceiling thinking about how terrible of a father I was. I was angry and frustrated and more than a little part of me wanted to just yell at her to just shut up. But as I looked at those big, blue eyes of hers, I realized that I was not really frustrated with her. In truth, I had not even lost my patience with her. I had lost patience with myself. I believed that I should be “super daddy” who took care of all of her needs perfectly. I believed that I should be “super husband” who had cleaned the house, made a warm dinner, and kept the baby happy while mom was at work. And I could not achieve any of those things.
It was then that I cried. I did not plan on crying but it just came out. And then I started sobbing. I told Elliana that she got to cry all day and now it was my turn. The fascinating thing was that as soon as I started crying, she stopped. She kind of just looked at me with curiosity as she watched her daddy ball his eyes out. I hugged her tightly and told her I loved her. It was almost like we both decided: she had been crying all day and I had done my best to comfort her, but now she was going to let me cry and comfort me – just for a moment.
And that is all it was – a moment. Because five minutes later she was crying again and I was rocking her and doing my best to soothe her. But I needed that moment to learn a little patience.
I do not need to be “super daddy”. I do not need to be the best daddy in the world. I just need to be her daddy and learn patience with myself so that I can in turn extend patience to her. It will take me some time, but I will learn it in baby steps.
Wednesday morning came around and we were ready to do it all over again. The day began much the same way. I jumped in the shower at 7:15am and was out in another minute because Elliana decided it was time to wake up early again. As I picked her up out of her basinet I told her we needed to talk.
“We both lost our patience with each other yesterday – and we’re stuck with each other again today. So here’s the deal, kid. I promise that I will be more patient with you today than I was yesterday. I would like to ask if you can be a bit more patient with me as well.” She gave me a smile which I interpreted to mean, “I’ll try.” We shook hands and agreed to the deal.
Suffice it to say – Wednesday went a whole lot better because I began the day with one plan and one plan only: patience. Patience was the plan. I can always stick with a plan. So I can say proudly that we both fulfilled the agreement and were more patient with each other (though I have to brag and say I did better job than she did).
We both are moving forward one baby step at a time.