Parenting with your best friend

I am writing this now, on a Sunday morning, because I was not able to go to church.

Why?

Our son, the adorable mr. Gregory, was up ALL FRICKIN NIGHT.

Literally, every hour. Wanting to play. Screaming if we wouldn’t. Eventually, so over-tired and stressed he was screaming no matter what!

When it came time to get him up for church, he was passed out in deep deep slumber, the kind where he wasn’t even stirring when noise was made around him.

It’s one thing to push ourselves when we’re tired. Jesse and I are adults, and for the past 7 months have been living in a virtual state of sleeplessness. It’s amazing how quickly your body adapts to getting 4 hours of sleep every night!

But it’s another thing to know that your child’s health depends on sleep in a way that an adult’s doesn’t. And, frankly, when it comes down to my health vs. my child’s, I will always pick his. Call it crazy Mommy love-mones, but it’s there.

Anyways. No church. Very sad for me.

On to another topic, one I’ve been thinking on a lot lately.

I remembering worrying so much about whether or not Jesse’s and my relationship would change when Gregory was born.

Those of you who are parents just read that and laughed.

IF it would change? IF?

People, there is no if. There is only HOW. HOW will it change?

For Jesse and I, it was a bit of a shock to our systems how much things changed. I mean, we had had 4 years of marriage, 3 years of dating, and over a decade of friendship before having kids, so we figured we at least had time on our side. Looking back on when Gregory arrived, I feel as though the timing was perfect. We had had many years of just the two of us, learning to work together, growing through issues, a big cross-country move, grad school, etc., but we also didn’t have too much time. I think that if a couple spends too many years childless, they will never be able to give up the freedom they are accustomed to, and will either resent the child or put unhealthy expectations on the child’s self-sufficiency from an early age.

Jesse and I were at the perfect place, I believe. Even now as I look back on my blog posts from a year ago, I can remember it. We never fought. We were on the same wave-length about nearly everything, even finishing each other’s sentences.

Enter baby.

We fight all the time now. In one sense, I’m not ashamed to say it because I think, “hey! we have a 3rd person now, who, most of the time, demands nearly all of our spare energy and time!” The entire family dynamic shifted, and so all of our normal patterns of communication did as well. Jesse and I keep trying to fall back on the way we used to communicate, only to find that it’s alllll different. It’s like I went to my coat closet on a snowy day, only to find that someone put all the summer clothes there instead. Instead of just searching until I find the “new” winter closet, I am too tired…get too grumpy…and an argument ensues.

There are so many things I could attribute to this. Lack of sleep is the biggest. Oh man, is it ever. If someone is ever getting a consistent solid 5-6 hours of straight sleep with a baby, please let me know. Or better yet, don’t. I might die of envy.

But I think the biggest factor is that something GIANT has shifted in who we are. Jesse is no longer just my husband, he is Gregory’s father. I am no longer just a wife, I am a mother.

And, sadly, those loyalties often get confusing and blurry. I have confessed to Jesse on many occasions that if I had to pick between him and Gregory, I wouldn’t know what to do. Most days, I would pick Gregory. I don’t know if there is something “wrong” with me, but it feels biological, like I wouldn’t be able to stop myself, if push came to shove. At night, as I’m falling asleep, I will all of a sudden start thinking up dangerous scenarios that G and I might find ourselves in, one day, and brainstorm ways in which to save him.

The other night, I was thinking of ways I could protect Gregory in the case that a nuclear blast went off. I ran through the scenario with Jesse, when all of a sudden, he was like, “Wait, where am I in all of this?” Huh. Good question. “Um, you can run! Protect yourself! But Gregory can’t, so he needs my help.”

At the time, I thought Jesse was offended because I wasn’t trying to protect him as well.

Looking back now, however, I get it (I think!). He was wondering why my scenario didn’t include him protecting the two of us! I mean, why did I naturally assume that I’d be the only one defending Gregory?

I think it’s because, in many ways, I’m still getting used to the fact that he’s no longer just my best friend, he’s also the only earthly father Gregory will ever have! In some ways, being a father is a more important role than just being a husband.

And so we fight. We don’t understand the roles that we are playing, and we step on each other’s toes, ALL the time!

But I am comforted on a few fronts.

One, I haven’t met a family YET who hasn’t struggled with this. In one sense, this could be depressing. Haha, NO ONE escapes the ugly transition period from party of 2 to family of 3. Kinda fatalistic. But it actually is comforting, because most say it gets easier. Baby #2 is significantly less stressful, because those roles as mother and father have already had some time to get established.

Two, I feel stronger than ever the desire to be married to Jesse until the end of our lives, in a way that I didn’t pre-Gregory.  On a very basic, motherly level, I see the way Gregory is just instantly 10x happier when we are both in the room together. I could never dream of depriving him of that. Secondly, we are going to have so much fun raising this little guy together. No one else will ever understand what it means to be Gregory’s parent the way Jesse does, because Gregory is a part of him, just as he is a part of me. Thirdly, I want so so badly to be able to look out from our porch some Sunday evening, seriously old with wrinkles all over our ankles, watching our grandkids running around our backyard.

These are the things I think about and remember when we are having a fight. No disagreement or annoyance is worth risking that future for.

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2 thoughts on “Parenting with your best friend

  1. I don’t know how much your experience mirrors mine, but having a baby showed me just how imperfect a person I am, and just how much further I need to go in learning to be selfless and forgiving.

    Fighting after a baby is SO normal. In fact, we got into an argument this morning when we were both laying in bed half asleep, because Nate wanted me to get up with James, and I wanted him to (I won: I’ve gotten much better at sleeping through crying!). And then we got in another one because I didn’t put away the bacon last night. And then another one because I left the front door open and James tried to take himself for a walk. And don’t even get me started on all the things Nate does that drive me crazy!

    It’s a lot easier to think your relationship is top-notch when your circumstances are ideal. It’s all smooth sailing in fair weather! But when you come up against some sort of adversity, that’s when you get to see your relationship (and yourself) for what it really is: imperfect. I am so imperfect. I get so irritated, and lose my patience so quickly, and I can be merciless when someone else is in the wrong. I am learning that I need to have more grace for my husband, and he needs to have more grace for me.

    PS: I am so with you on the “save the baby first” scenario! I too was feeling really guilty about it, but I think it’s natural: Nate’s a man. He can look after himself. But James is child, and at this point his life is still intertwined with my life. Because I am his mother and he is still a baby, his body is part of my body. Of course my instinct is to save him first! He is a part of me right now. He won’t always be, but right now protecting and caring for him is one of my main obligations in life.

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