Friday, January 15, 2016

The State of Our Union is Good

I'm asked frequently how Master Blackwell is adjusting to the arrival of his little brother.

The quick answer is, he's doing quite well. 

He's still giggling, still in love with Mickey Mouse and we haven't discovered any plans scrawled in crayon detailing imminent reprisals against his mother and I. 

That's not to say that things haven't changed, because they have. Good lord, they have. But I believe the change is mostly with Mrs. Blackwell and I. 

Because she's prone to feel guilt much in the same way sociopaths feel nothing, Mrs. Blackwell has a long list of ways in which the boy's life is more difficult now that his little brother has arrived. The thread binding each of these together is that in some way, shape or form, she has failed. 

She should be doing this. She should have done that. If only she'd thought to do it this way. And, on and on. 

Perhaps it's because she's a first-born child old enough to remember the arrival of her younger sibling, her sensitivity to the boy's perceived plight is so acute.

On the flipside, perhaps it's because I'm a middle child, second born to a brother gifted with an abundance of natural charisma, that I'm less sensitive to these shifts. Additionally, I was 15 months old when my younger brother was born so whatever limelight I might have had as the "new baby" was short lived and too early for me to remember. 

It'll be a frigid day in hell when we get them
to both look and smile simultaneously.
Point being Mrs. Blackwell feels she's letting the boy down.   

And because I'm easily satisfied and probably oblivious, I don't see it. I see the same happy little boy I always have who loves his mom, loves his dad and — as is expected with the arrival of a new sibling — is throwing tantrums a bit more now than he did before. 

But, let's for a moment say that Mrs. Blackwell is right. Let's say that the boy has sensed the shift of his world far beyond the obvious factors like time with — and attention from — his parents. Let's say that he's bearing the emotional brunt of considerations that we aren't aware of. 

It's possible. And, I'd never presume to know exactly what he's going through.  But I would presume to suggest that it's well worth the many benefits he'll take from having a brother.

Like much of life's growth, it's not easy but it sure seems necessary. And, like much of what we endure before the age of four, he won't remember it.

Life as we currently know it is only rarely life as we once knew it. Things change and I'm happy the boy is getting acquainted with that early on.

This might not be enough to sate the emotional sensitivities of the marvelous woman I married, but it's enough for her (apparently) emotionally stunted husband.


Mrs. Blackwell and I are feeling the grind of this expedition. My life consists of work, then home and then attempting to relieve her. I don't go out with the guys for beers. I don't watch the game at a buddy's place.

It's work. It's home and, on weekends, we spice things up by going to the grocery store. That's it. It's also what we signed up for, so I'm not looking for sympathy. It could be worse of course. We've got our health. We've got a roof over our head. We don't live in Syria.

For her part Mrs. Blackwell is on the tail end of her maternity leave and while she won't admit it, she has to be looking forward to getting back to her work and her research.

"It's all good."
I don't care how cute a baby is (and this little guy is absurdly cute) I don't care how in love with him or her you might be, they're still a baby and when you're trapped inside of a house with one (alone) for 45 hours a week for three straight months, I can see how one might go a little nuts — or at least a little weird.

Fortunately my wife has avoided going crazy and signs of emerging weirdness are not yet evident. (Though she does get this look in her eyes sometimes that just lets me know, it's time.)

For now, her only relief comes in short spells. When I come home from work and try to take the little guy off her hands, it's often not for long.

For a time I can keep him occupied and I enjoy holding and playing with him. It's not interactive necessarily, but watching his eyes widen when he's lifted up high, is a particularly funny sight.

But then he starts crying. In response, I look for ways to settle him but my playbook is woefully thin and consists of little more than holding him in different ways, offering a litany of strange noises I think might be appealing to a baby, or walking around the house and trying to distract him in any way I can.

More often than not I fail, the boy turns as red as a tomato and Mrs. Blackwell needs to return to mop up for me. 

So she's always on, whether I'm there or not. If there is one thing I remember from going through this the first time, it's that just when you think you're at the end of your rope, things have a way of changing for the better. In this instance the boy is approaching an age and weight which will see him sleeping for much longer stretches.

Relief, at long last, is in sight.

Until it arrives we remain grateful for that beautiful, smiling, cooing, grunting, pudgy baby boy as proof again that change is often arduous but, just as often, well, well worth it. 

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