August 13th, 2009
There were many naysayers. Those who approached us during pregnancy with a take-it-to-the-bank guarantee that having a baby would transform the dynamics of our lives . . . seemingly, by their tone, for the negative. Now, they never said it that way, but picture a husband and wife standing before you . . . eyes bloodshot and carrying bags beneath them large enough to check at the airport . . . hair matted with spit-up and in need of a good scrubbing . . . clothes permanently marked with the stains of babydom . . . hands trembling a bit amidst a caffeine stupor.
Faking a smile, they would say, “Oh, having a baby is a beautiful experience . . . don’t get us wrong, you’re going to love it . . . there’s nothing in the world like it.” But then leaning in, as if they were about to warn you of a pirate’s curse that tainted the treasure you were about to hunt, they always added, “But know this, your life as you know it will never be the same . . . NEVER . . .” and then they trailed off into the diabolical laughter of Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget.
Laura and I would back away . . . slowly as not to spook them too much. New parents have been known to stampede from sudden and unexpected movements. Considering these pre-baby encounters with post-baby parents, what were we supposed to think?
Living for some time now on this side of the parental fence, I think I somewhat understand the emotional delirium tremors of the new parent. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a reflection of the experience itself, but rather the realization of what has now become commonplace. I’ve compiled a short list of things that I now do as a parent that were completely and totally unheard of before I entered this new adventure. Here are just a few.
1. Smelling the Baby’s Booty. At first, I didn’t quite realize what I was doing, but over time, the simple act of placing my nose up to my baby’s diaper to decipher the mystery of whether or not poopy had occurred became the most efficient method. Now, there is the “actually looking into the back of the diaper” method, but all true parents know that this method is not always the most time-sensitive approach. This is especially true when Princess is wearing a onesie that zips up or snaps up the front. In order to look, one must remove almost the entire outfit just to check . . . and if the search proves fruitless, countless minutes of unhappy undressing have been enduring all for naught.
Bottom line is, though, that you realize you’re a parent and that life has changed when you deliberately choose to place your snouser that close to another human’s nastiness.
2. Barehanding the Boogers. For most of my life, I’ve carried a gut-wrenching repulsion to boogers. I can handle a vast array of bodily fluids and odors, but the ole “snot hitchhikers” have always done me in . . . that is, until I became a daddy.
At first, I would always grab a kleenex or a baby wipe in order to remove obstacles from Sadie’s nasal passages. But again, time and efficiency eventually got the best of me and I found myself simply sticking my fingers up and around the offended region and grabbing whatever I could find. No gagging. No nausea. No sense that anything was at all strange. Yeah, there’s no doubt that I had forever changed.
3. Living Happily with Spit-Up. When Sadie first arrived, the child erupted with spit-up as regularly as an Icelandic geyser. Her doctor has prescribed various reflux medicines and we’ve even switched her over to lactose-free milk. It all helped. But eventually, I just became used to the mess and the stench. Now, I’m not saying that I prefer it or anything . . . that would just be sick. But, a little spit up on the old arm doesn’t send me running for the shower. In fact, I’ve even been known just to rub it in a bit . . . no one will ever know! I’m convinced that it has improved my complexion and yes, I’ve most definitely changed.
4. Cleaning Up Food Messes. This one hit me the other day while I was eating with my family at a Chinese restaurant. Once we ventured into the waters of eating at restaurants with munchkin, I became privy to messes that can only be described as purely disastrous. I contemplated bringing a huge tarp to place beneath her high chair to catch the debris, but my pride would not allow it. Instead, I began to find myself simply gathering huge piles of partially chewed food shrapnel in my cupped hands. Green beans covered in slobber. Half-eaten slices of mandarin oranges. Soggy globs of cheerio-type snacks. Combine that with the filth that already existed on that floor and you’ve got a pretty gross scenario . . . one that became commonplace to my parental schemata.
These new actions became the greatest evidence that I had not only experienced parenthood, but that I had been changed by it. In spiritual terms, there are certain actions and attitudes that should follow our spiritual decisions that produce hardcore evidence of a real change. Joining a church or learning jargon aren’t realistic evidences that our lives have been transformed.
What are valid evidences of our change? Well, there are many. Fruits of the Spirit in our lives like love, joy, peace, patience . . . and a whole host of others. Loving others as we love ourselves, while loving God with all of our being . . . yeah, those are the moments we should simply look up to realize that change has occurred. If we aren’t transformed, then our experience is shallow at best . . . at worst, it is non-existent. I haven’t met a parent yet who has not been transformed by the experience.
Maybe that’s why the Bible clearly encourages us: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12: 2 NLT).
These days, I enjoy the transformation because it reveals to me that I’m a real parent. In spiritual terms, I long for the same obvious evidence to readily observable in me. Evidence that I will never be the same.