April in Glenwood: In raising a human
Parenthood is a daily lesson in understanding the human condition. Watching a tiny person grow from taking his first breath to speaking his first word has been an existential education.
Babies, I’m convinced, are the real authorities on the meaning of life.
Wiktionary defines the human condition as “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.” Since the days of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, humans have tried to explain these events that comprise the circle of life. This deep reflection on human existence continues to prompt countless questions often lacking tangible answers. The who, what, when and where are the easy part.
The why and how are usually what stump me.
I could dedicate my life to trying to make sense of all the crazy moments that move us along from birth to death. In years past, I spent more than enough time making sense of how dating works in the Roaring Fork Valley, wondering why it was so difficult. Now that I’m nearly married, and I can look back on my dating days, I’ve determined it was all about accountability. There’s a finite balance to sharing that form of mutual respect between one another. I think once a person finds a mate where emotional responsibility are the foundation, anything can happen.
I also tried to quit overthinking everything.
To find what I was looking for, I had to let my confusion and disillusionment go. Like one those of those paper lanterns you light on fire, make a wish and release into the night sky. I figured it would all work itself out. And it did. Because that’s how life works.
There can be as many explanations as there are none at all.
I’m guessing all those prior generations of parents who have come before us took the same approach to raising children. There haven’t always been those “What to Expect the First Year” books or mommy blogs, so when new moms didn’t know why their 1-year-olds wouldn’t sleep through the night, or cried uncontrollably, they trusted the universe for answers. Then they passed down the information gathered to the next generation.
Thankfully that still happens for me with all the moms in my life.
I often hypothetically ask myself how people survived child rearing without the help of the knowledgeable folks who live on Sesame Street, or the convenience of baby food purée in self-serve pouches.
And those rubbery teething rings that go in the freezer.
They did it with the tools they had at the time, much like we do. Someday my great-great-grandchildren will chuckle at the idea that infant car seats were so difficult to install they required 350-page instruction manuals. That pack-and-plays weighed more than 20 pounds and didn’t magically unfold in less than two seconds.
I’ve already cursed my share of those wicked contraptions.
Humans of course have been raising kids long before car seats and pack-and-plays. Back in the day our species spent more of its valuable time churning butter, nursing babies, and mending britches, all at once, than asking themselves questions without answers.
Remember, it’s the babies that know the answers anyway.
Sure, I might find myself awake past my bedtime searching for answers because I’ve been asking who, what, when, where, why and how since I was a little kid playing some nerdy reporter game on a Commodore 64. I’m sure I’ll continue to wonder whether I’m coaching my baby phonetically enough to start talking in complete sentences by 18 months.
I seriously don’t expect that.
I’d love it for him to stay a baby forever because he’s so cute and cuddly. I also can’t wait to watch him grow and learn. For all those questions I don’t have answers for, I know intuition helps. So do those “What to Expect” books. Except I don’t think they’ve written “What to Expect Teenage Years” yet. Based on my experience, I could write that one in one word.
At only 14 months in as a mom, I have decades ahead of me to learn about life, in all its stages. That will come from seeking answers and asking questions.
And not overthinking things.
April E. Clark has a very curious and funny toddler on her hands. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Christina Cappelli described playwright Steven Dietz’s “The Nina Variations” as providing a couple with a reset button, the ability to repeat conversations and say something differently and see where things will end up this time.