Before I became a parent, I would spend hours at a time, until the sun set, riding through the forest on my dirt bike. I would spend an entire day strumming away at my guitar, and penning lyrics about life and love. A 12 hour, 800 mile road trip, just to hike up the side of a mountain for a single day, was worth every minute and every mile behind the wheel.
If I wanted to fly to New York or Chicago, to just have a few drinks with old friends, a little money and time set aside meant I could plan it no problem, with just a couple of weeks on my hands. My life was just one little adventure leading into the next one, or at least the freedom to believe in that.
As a new parent, I am no longer tied down to a regular 8-5 kind of schedule, with vacation hours building up and holidays around the corner. Now, my vacationless schedule is pretty much dictated by the 12-14 hour stretches that my infant spends awake, and his moods between those hours.
I have friends and family that tell me that I should be the one in charge, and that as the parent, I should be dictating where we go and when. This will be much easier when my son is 5 years old, but when your child is only 5 months old, disrupting schedules and routines comes at a much higher price than what a person without children might freely assume.
In the case that my son doesn’t sleep, he gets tired and cranky, and cries. In the case that he doesn’t get fed in the time when he’s hungry, he gets cranky, and cries. If we are not in a time and place where I can freely change his diaper when it gets wet and uncomfortable, he will get cranky, and cry.
My sister said to me, “No one’s going to get mad at a baby for being a baby.” This is true, at least it should be. However, it is exhausting to deal with a tired and cranky, crying baby. I say that we plan occasions, going out, or doing anything social, accordingly because we want to be considerate to the company around us. But it’s for mine and my husband’s sanity too, because at the end of the day, where someone else might have to deal with our crying baby for 15 minutes or so at their party or gathering? I have listened to my son, while trying every method under the moon to get him to stop, crying for an hour stretch at a time.
Becoming a parent to an infant has meant also becoming something of a boring hermit person, whose biggest adventures now consist of just leaving more than one block from our house.
This isn’t to say that my son is a vampire who never goes out and sees things, but he’s a 5 month old baby, who needs upwards of 16 hours of sleep a day, and has a maximum “awake and alert” time of about two hours(and honestly, that’s pushing it). With only 8 hours of awake time, and needing a nap just about every hour, or hour and a half, one can imagine that our schedules look a bit choppy.
Combine that with the fact that our son is pretty finicky about how and where he sleeps(with a swaddle, a blanket, music, in a dark, quiet space), and the logistics of leaving the house, where the routine and all materials are easy to access, become much more of a task.
I do get comments about how we need to “train” our son into becoming more comfortable in these situations, but I’m honestly more interested in making sure that he’s healthy and happy first.
We do go to events, graduations, birthday parties, weddings, where our son has to endure the discomfort of being out of his normal environment and routine. But we don’t do it often, because it’s exhausting for our entire family.
It’s hard for baby, and it’s hard for mom and dad. At the end of the day, who doesn’t enjoy the comforts of their own home? The ability to just lay back and enjoy some peace and quiet? It’s fun to go out and socialize, bond with our friends and family, but it’s stressful to have to cook appetizers or hors d’ouevres for 30+ people, and make conversation and small talk with new people, all while checking the cues on your baby’s face to see if he’s hitting threshold of awake time and noise level. Currently, we do not have the energy for it.
In time, we will resume our adventurous and social personalities, but we will never get to experience the first magical year of our son’s life again. We want to enjoy that, because that’s what “living” means to us right now.
I was here when my son cracked his first smile, heard him when he first began to coo, and now we are excitedly anticipating him finally getting the “roll-over” down(he’s so close!). We didn’t miss his first giggle, and the many ones that have followed since.
I don’t want to hear from a daycare provider that he pushed himself up and is crawling, or God forbid walking, for the first time. We have this amazing opportunity to spend the most time with our son possible ourselves, and I know not everyone has this ability, so I don’t want to take it for granted.
Some days, I really miss my bike and the freedom of the forest trails. I lamented about missing Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness in concert this weekend. There are road trips and other adventures I fantasize about being able to go on freely again. But these are small sacrifices for the time that I get to spend with my baby, while he’s a baby.
My husband and I are planning trips to Europe, and the Bahamas, when our son is old enough to appreciate these things. Just the other day, our baby watched his dad intently as he strummed away at the guitar, just to get a reaction. Our spirits of adventure and creativity haven’t been lost on us yet, but we’re biding our time and enjoying our child, until he’s old enough to share in the spirit of these things with us.
Until then, our lives might seem a little boring, with our limited travel, and our many nights as homebodies. But, being a boring parent is a small price to pay for being a parent.