Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Change is Good

I sit in the master stateroom listening to the screamed protests of giggling girls wrestling with their father in the port hull and revisit the reasons for this voyage. We can talk about the desire for adventure, the need to do and see more than the working world can provide us. But what it really comes down to is the peals of laughter in the opposite hull.

My husband and I have always tried to be hands-on parents. While we did not completely subscribe to attachment parenting, we nevertheless undertook many of the characteristics of that creed. I breast fed all three children to six months. During that magical time, they each spent more time sleeping with us than in their cribs.

It was not a decision brought about by ideology. On the contrary, it was all about getting more sleep. I discovered early into our first infant that nothing shuts up a screaming baby like a tit in her mouth. Of course married life had taught me that this worked very well for men, so it struck me as highly appropriate that it should work for the by-product of spending time with one. Rather than get out of bed, heat a bottle, rock the baby, go to bed, rinse, repeat every three hours, the baby would cry, my husband would sit up and move the baby to my opposite side, I would roll over, and we’d all go back to sleep. By the third child, we could do this without any of us waking up.

My youngest spent her first six months at my office. It was the height of the first dot com boom in the late 90’s, and my company quite literally couldn’t replace me. I politely told them I’d find another job at half again as much pay three months after the birth, or they could have me back immediately as long as I could bring in my baby. Maybe it wasn’t polite, but it worked.

They took the latter offer. I spent the last three months of my pregnancy attending bug meetings during which the engineering boy-man-children crunching the code stared at my roiling belly in horror, anticipating no doubt the emergence of an alien at any moment. Aeron herself dispelled all comparisons to Signorney Weaver as she sucked boob during project meetings after her birth. It was the first, last and only time I’ve felt that I was on the front line of the feminist revolution.

However, this is simply a long way of saying that Dr C and I have always been hands on parents. We attended all the school functions, sat at the dining room table to do homework in the evenings, and tried to go on regular family outings.

And yet two years ago we realized it wasn’t enough. Our oldest is almost too old to be called a child. At eleven, she increasingly seems like a young woman – a strong willed, temperamental, inexplicably annoying young woman, but a creature fast moving towards adulthood nonetheless. And we were missing it.

I don’t want to look back on my life and smack myself on the forehead with a resounding, “Doh!” At age 50, I do not want to start sobbing at lyrics to Cat's In the Cradle channeling Johnny Cash and wishing I had done it all differently.

Let’s face it. Many cruisers fall into one of several obviously mentally instable categories: those suffering a mid-life crisis, those who have never grown up, and those with more money than sense. My husband and I clearly fall into the first category. I would like to believe – and maybe this is a rum-inspired delusion that allows me to sleep at night – that what we really recognized was our need to spend more time with the girls.

Our children are growing up so fast. We just don’t want to miss it.


Meg_L said...

one of my funniest pregnancy memories is from my first child.

I was 8 months huge and the project I was working on needed some more details from the site for me to lay out the parking lot. All the survey crews were busy, so there I was in LA rush hour traffic doing basic surveying in my little orange vest. Must have given a few drivers a shock.

Jody said...

That about sums it up for us too. Our 4 are growing faster than weeds, and we just don't want to miss it either.

That and the fact that my husband had a small stroke in 2006, and we realized with a sudden shock that it could all end in a heartbeat, and it was time to live life to the fullest, damn the torpedos.