Letting Go and Leaning In

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Laundry, Daddy Style.

Like many high functioning individuals, I pride myself on being able to keep multiple balls in the air.  But this week I was sidelined.  The post-procedure instructions were clear:  bed rest for 48 hours.  Were I to abide by my doctor’s instructions, after the all clear, I would have exactly 84 hours remaining to prepare for the arrival of the movers.  “That’s not enough time,” I thought to myself.  But that was the least of my worries.

My greater–and more immediate concern–was the care of our daughter.  Yes, my husband is a loving, caring, doting, fun father.  And while he has spent a few hours caring for her while I’m running errands or getting a hair cut, he had yet to spend an entire day–let alone two days–with her.  And he would have to care for Blue and tend to my needs at the same time.

Before the procedure he reassured me that he would take care of everything, boldly declining the assistance of a helper.  But being risk adverse by nature, I desperately wanted to stack the odds in his favor.  My to-do list was long and made ambitious only by the presence of a 13-month old toddling about the house.  Laundry was to be laundered, a rice spinach casserole needed to be prepared, and a pantry needed to be replenished.

Twenty-four hours before the procedure not one item on my list had been completed. The voice of a longtime friend played in my head, “Intentions–good or otherwise–are irrelevant; only actions matter.”  Years ago I disagreed vehemently with the statement; now I appreciate the rigidity of its truth.

After arriving home from the procedure the next day, I sat on the couch.  [S] reached out her arms towards me, willing me to pick her up.  Just as I felt guilt creeping into my conscience, my husband picked her up.  He then paid our sitter, prepared lunch, walked Blue and fed [S].  As I watched the activity from my supine position, I called out small nuggets of wisdom.  “She probably needs some water.”  “I think she’s full.”  “She needs a snack.”  “She might be too warm.”  Then I stopped.

I thought about Sheryl Sandberg’s admonition in her book, Lean In.  She cautions women against self-sabotaging the creation of an equal partnership with their spouse, while acknowledging many women inadvertently do so.  She urges women to make their partners real and present partners when it comes to household chores and parenting, embracing the simple fact that the relationship consists of two capable individuals–not one.

“If he gets up to deal with the diaper before being asked, she should smile even if he puts the diaper on the baby’s head. Over time, if he does things his way, he’ll find the correct end.”

— Lean In.

Sandberg is right.  It is a fallacy to believe that Mom is a better caretaker than Dad or vice versa.  What matters is the presence of an agreed upon guiding principle for actions towards a child.  For us, that is love.  My husband is an extremely capable man.  But when it comes to the care of our daughter, I admit there are many times I believe I know best.  A sentiment some would say is a mother’s prerogative; a statement others would deem accurate as the primary caregiver.

For the remainder of my time on bed rest, I watched and listened with amusement as my husband and my daughter made their way together.  To say his ways are different than mine is an understatement.  I want to write that his ways are no better–just different–than mine, but I’m not certain that’s true.  Under his watch laundry was laundered, meals were prepared, and the pantry was replenished.  And I learned to let go and lean in.

Fair Winds and Following Seas

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Who doesn’t love a surprise?  I know, I do.

Upon waking this morning, I was greeted by a small box resting on our bookcase.  It was addressed to our daughter.  I asked my husband when it arrived.  “I’m not sure, sometime when we were out late yesterday,” he replied.  Sitting on our couch, with [S] at my feet, I carefully opened the box and waded through layers of protective bubble wrap.

Inside the box sat a smaller box, this one blue.  I untied the signature decorative ribbon, lifted the top, and pulled back the top layer of crisp white tissue paper, revealing a stunning sailor baby cup.  An apropos gift for her first birthday, considering.

But the gifts kept coming.  I thanked my former-client-turned-friend for the thoughtful and generous gift via text message.  (Yes, of course, a proper handwritten note will be forthcoming.)  And he responded that he thought the anchor was perfect given the adventures of my husband’s career.

He then penned the following poem:

[S] off to sail the great blue sea,

Heading to Japan with her family of three.

A magic cup of good grace to cheer your new home,

May it bring you all good things, wherever you roam.

His father was in the Navy.  He fought in World War II and was at Okinawa.

We are touched.  Thank you.

New Kicks and Big Steps

First walking shoes.
First walking shoes.

I had one of those moments this weekend.  You know the kind.  One minute you’re out window shopping, perhaps nonchalantly strolling towards a really, really good chocolatier, and the next minute one of life’s significant moments is upon you.

We met a group of friends for a farewell lunch at Eureka this weekend.  After the last hug was given and the final goodbye said, Russell and I leisurely strolled through the open air mall wandering into whatever store caught our fancy.  My mission was to make our way towards See’s Candies for a free sample and a few dark chocolate treats.  We popped into The Children’s Place and then happened into Clarks, the shoe store.

At the store’s entrance sat a small display of children’s shoes.  Russell continued into the store as I stared at the first shoes collection.  “She needs shoes,” I thought to myself.  Of course she does.  For now, she’s been sporting bare feet at the park and the most adorable crib shoes in the stroller.  But in a few days she’ll begin spending a lot of time in hotels, airports and other public venues, necessitating her feet be kept protected, warm and  clean.

I pushed the stroller towards my husband, standing before a large display of children’s shoes.  We began placing differing styles of pink-hued shoes on her feet, but neither of us knew her shoe size or how to tell a good fit.  Thankfully, a saleswoman approached and offered her expertise.  She measured our daughter’s feet.  And she examined the fit of each pair of shoes tried.

As I sat in Clarks’, [S] contentedly sitting on my lap trying on shoes, I saw the first shoes’ collection motto, “The only pair of shoes they will keep forever.”  Then the obvious hit me.  This is [S’s] first step towards independence.  And with each passing year, we will witness her becoming–and wanting to become–even more independent.  Until she leaves home.

I’ve been so busy with the minutiae of the day-to-day that I failed to see that she now chooses where to go and actually goes–be it up the stairs, around the corner or to the unstable standing lamp (but, of course).  She gets there using an unpredictable combination of walking along furniture, taking a few unassisted steps and crawling, but she knows her mind.  This morning, she walked to her highchair, looked up and signed more.  It was snack time.

After we purchased her shoes, I couldn’t help but hear my Mother’s voice in my head.  Growing up, whenever she purchased us new shoes, she repeated what her father–[S’s] Great Grandfather–used to tell my Mother when she wore new shoes, “Take big steps.”

She is, Grandpa, she is.