I was a bad new father. I made many mistakes. I made many judgement calls I would not make today. Except now I am not just a parent, I am also a grandfather. And now I see bleary-eyed new parents trawling the internet to find the answers in order to not make mistakes. Mistakes are no longer okay. Not having the answer – not knowing the answer – not being right … ? No longer allowed today.
Which makes me sad.
Because I recall a time when one of our babies cried incessantly. “It’s colic – it’s a phase – they will grow out of it.” That “phase” was our life for an eternity (of several whole weeks). We took turns rocking and comforting this wee child. Except we had another child. Except all our attention and energy was on this child in pain incessantly. And my lack of sleep … shredded nerves … guilt that I couldn’t fix this … my full-time job … I had nothing left over for our other child.
That “phase” did pass and I still have no idea who was right and who was wrong. There is no “right” and there is no way to not make “mistakes”. There is no one answer because you each change each day. Even that “phase” was not the same throughout. There were really good moments and really bad moments (and an eternity in-between).
We all change in each moment of each day.
But as adults we “just get on with it”. Babies don’t because babies can’t. So new parents make mistakes. And the mistakes never stop. But as adults we just get on with it. But new parents can’t because this is a new life we parents have created. And new parents should know because new parents love this new life. But babies can’t because they don’t know how. So this “mistake fest” has no “one answer”. It never will.
And once I accepted that … then I made less mistakes. Because then love was the guide.
You hurt – we loved you. You laughed – we loved you. You were hungry – we fed you. You were angry – we loved you. You wanted your freedom – we gritted our teeth and loved you. You made mistakes – we loved you and were sometimes allowed to help. You said “I hate you” – we hugged each other so we could love you. You broke every rule going – we loved you enough to enforce the rules. You made some really bad decisions – we loved you – you beat yourself up – we loved you – we never knew all the answers all the time but we loved you and never stopped loving you.
Which is why today I get angry when the always-on answers and media-appointed experts provide answers to everything … that become THE way to do things … become THE way that must not change – no matter what mood the child is in that moment. Because a child is never the same for long. And because NO ONE should ever have the power to convince another to NOT do what every fibre of their being screams to do … to comfort their child in that moment and make the pain of that moment ease even a little … even if it’s for the parent as much as the child.
And I would never have said any of this in that “phase”. Because in that “phase” I was inside the pain. I was inside the guilt. I was inside without any answers other than “the phase”. I was vulnerable.
You are a mystery whose language we had to learn. And we learned your individual languages – as best we could. And we healed your pain – as best we could. We loved you – as best we could. And our best was just that – our best. And often that seemed not enough – to not be “the answer”.
Like at 2.00am … and 2.15am … at 3.00m … and 3.05am … then 3.07am … and 3.10am … and 4.01am … and 4.02am … and 4.17am … and 4.21am .. night after night after day after day.
But what else is there?
I have learned that no one should have the power to tell me their answer is the answer – not even me.
I have learned that no one should assume that power to be right – not even me.
And, for me, that is why love is not pain-free, nor guilt-free, nor free of the gritty side of life.
Because when we put down that “right” – then we love.
And because being right is of THE moment – but loving is in EVERY moment.
If I allow.