Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 28, 2008: Three years

Three of us at Phipps Every now and then in some parenting/marriage forums the discussion topic "which is easier/harder, marriage or parenting." And well before we had our first son, we were convinced that the answer would be parenting, if nothing else because we found the transition into marriage to be a very pleasant one and could not imagine the transition to parenting to be as good. And while there are not major dramas involved, I think that I would still consider being a new parent is harder than a new marriage was.

Neither of us had ever been much for the propaganda that surrounds both marriage and parenting. Neither the comments about how wonderful both would be, or the assumptions that either are signs of maturity or social skills. For both of us, it was a part of life, and it happens that it is a part of life that most people took part in, but no more.

What makes parenting difficult? Not to talk about the day to day issues (that is for my monthly updates), but more of what is intrinsically different about a family of two adults compared to having a third person who is completely dependent. For all talk about two becoming one, for us, marriage was still two people who were living life alongside each other, but we were still growing and had room to explore life while alongside each other. Each of us was making personal decisions that was separate from our marriage. While marriage provided the color and background scent of our lives, both of us had more. We can make decisions that affect the other, but both of us had resilience, and could disagree and influence the other.

With a baby it is different. We can make decisions, and the baby is dependent on our judgment. And that has changed the dynamic of decisions. Because we cannot get good feedback from a baby, we are reduced to guesses and feelings about what the root problem is, or even what constitutes a problem. And this is heavily influenced by what babies we have been exposed to, how intensely, the tendencies of parents to trumpet good things widely, but hide problems, books we read, and who we happen to talk to. And for most of us, the number of babies we actually have is small (certainly not enough to form a valid sample).

So we have the things that have gone well (baby is thriving, he is generally very happy, well attached to both parents, teething was fairly painless) and not so well (was colicky for many months, doesn't sleep well or self-sooth, does not take alternate care-givers well, does not socialize with others well, not really as active as we would like). And with the realization that all of our parenting desires are not all achievable (especially the sleeping part), the question is turning to what are we willing to sacrifice to achieve the desires we have not met. Because in the past it was enough to talk about things and know that our opinion is part of the eventual decision making. Now both of us are fully engaged in this thing called parenting, and we are interpreting the same information differently we do not make the same decisions with the same goals. And that is what the electrical people call impedance mismatch. ('friction' does not quite get the sense right)

One of the things that is nice about the fact that we are both on academic calendars is that our slower pace makes working through this easier then it will be when we are on our full job responsibilities. But still not easy. But we have years to work this out.
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