Saturday, July 2, 2011

Parenting: The hardest job that brings Me the MOST JOY!

I became a parent as an act of love. Sonny's Mom and Dad loved him enough to let me raise him from birth. I tell Sonny everyday or as often as his tween-self will let me now, I prayed him from heaven*.

When as a couple, my partner and I decided to care for Sonny, he was 4 months in utero. We knew we were stepping out as Gay Men raising a child. It was done before us but there wasn't a huge community to draw from then. Neither of us knew how to access that part of the LGBT community. We weren't a part of it. It's nice to see now, 12 years later, a community of Gay Dad's who are out, raising kids, and being a part of all communities.

My friend loves to tell the story about the time before Sonny was born. I was working full time as an Executive Director of a nonprofit, I was in graduate school full time working on my MSW, and working at an internship so my life was regulated. I lived by a schedule. In my madness, I believed I could put Sonny on a schedule. I made one out. His schedule had eating time, nap time, play time, and his activities. It sounds crazy and ludicrous now, but I did it.

As parents know, newborn babies don't have schedules. They eat every few hours. They poop and pee, often. They burp, a lot. Nothing about their first few days, months, and years can be planned. You adjust your schedule around them.

I like to tell people that Sonny is a book baby. I lived here in Minneapolis when Sonny was born and away from my family. I didn't have help in knowing what developmental stages were or what was going on. No one in my circle of friends had children. I had many books on newborn babies. I learned by trial and error. When I did get a chance to meet a parent of a new born baby, I asked.

When Sonny came into my life, I was in a committed relationship. My partner shared in the responsibility of feeding, bathing, and changing diapers for the first few weeks. Cause, that's really all they do. LOL

Needless to say, after a few weeks, my partner moved into the living room and out of our lives so I was alone in caring for Sonny. Sonny was a colicky baby for the first few months. What we later discovered was that it was his formula. It was not suitable for him and once we changed it, life got better. Parents of colicky babies learn to try to tune out their wailing baby. Walking them, rubbing their back, swaddling them, rocking them, and every parenting ploy you try but nothing. They cry.

Parents of new born babies know sleep deprivation. I remember those times. I could fall asleep at a whim. I could sit in a chair and sleep. I took a nap any chance I got. I gave up quickly on taking care of the house or myself because sleep and tending to Sonny consumed all my energy.

I remember a sleep deprived moment in the first few months, as Sonny cried his colicky cry, a random thought crossed my mind: I can see why dogs eat their young. It was a crazy, random thought. It was exhaustion and exasperation speaking. I couldn't do anything. I was alone so I just sat rocking Sonny and we cried.

What I learned being a parent is how to love unconditionally. My heart grew. It reached the limits of the universe and beyond. Silly milestones, I cheered. The cooing, I giggled at. The accidentally peeing, I learned to laugh at. The poop in the tube was only part of life. Burp and smelling like it was my life.

Falling in love unconditionally is scary. Every fear creeps in. All the 'what if's' come to light. You want to wrap your baby in bubble wrap so they won't hurt themselves when they learn to walk. You want them to stop, as they scream in pain cause they are pulling their own hair. They don't know themselves yet.

There were many sleepless nights watching Sonny sleep. Having a spoon under his nose to make sure he was breathing. I learned to sleep so lightly that when he moved, I woke. I remember, waking up in terror, making sure he was ok.

As time goes along, you learn to manage the fear. You put it away in a recess of your mind, cause to live with it all the time would drive you stark raving mad. At least I had too...

Sonny would fall asleep when I sang, Amazing Grace or Inkpata ( I barely knew the words but I sang what I knew. It soothed him. He found comfort in my voice. He wasn't critiquing what key I was singing in or if I had a good voice. He would fall asleep when I sang.

Joy bubbles up from the center of my being. I adore Sonny. When he first walked and I saw it, I cried. When he sat up, I cried. When he got his immunization shots, I cried. When I left him, I cried. When he cried, I would cry at times. I was an emotional mess and still am, at times. LOL

Being a parent is the hardest thing that I am accomplishing to date. I can't say that I've done it perfectly. My life and his at times bump into each other. My communities needs and his needs, I learn to negotiate. Doing it all is very, very hard as a single parent.

Parenting has taught me to become a better person. I have a capacity to love that I haven't known before. I have the ability to manage fear. I can see hope now, where I couldn't. I have deeper sense of faith and God than ever before in my life.

As a Social Worker, I've seen parents who have failed their parental responsibility. As a human being, in my opinion, I've seen parents who shouldn't be one. I've seen couples struggle to become parents. Good people. They are thoughtful, deliberate, calculating in their effort but nothing. I rage at the senselessness of when 2 people having unprotected sex and unplanned pregnancy results. Don't even get me started on absentee Dad's and Mom's who don't even know who the baby daddy is...

Here is my advice: if you ain't ready to care for a child – DO NOT have unprotected sex. I'm all for sexual freedom and expression. Pregnancies happen if you are having raw unprotected penile/vaginal sex. Finally, take the responsibility for your mistake and make the right decision for everyone involved. Make this decisions in accordance to your beliefs and value structure, no one else.

I'm now watching my siblings older children have their own kids. It is amazing. It starts all over again. I can see myself in them. Watching them grow as parents. I hope they know, they can ask for help. I'm open to help but I am not going to take over parenting for them. It's their journey, now.

My Mom loves to tease me about how ridiculously crazy my behavior was when I was child. She loves to remind me of how I was to her. She laughs hysterically when Sonny is been obstinate and argumentative with me. When he is speaking his mind and debating with me. When I digress into, “I know I am but what are you?”....Those moments when I take a deep breathe and exhale. I remind myself, I will love him past this stage in life.

Don't tell Sonny but he's still my baby. He loves to jump in bed with me and let me rub his back. When he is sick, he loves to sleep in my bed. His big-boy self now won't let anyone know, he still needs me. That's ok. I will write about it. I will keep those memories for us.

People who are considering becoming a parent and are waiting for the right time -here's a hint: there is no right time. Sure when you are economically stable and you've achieved your career goals sounds great but when life happens, allow it. If you are in a suitable enough place in your life, I'm telling you: It's worth it! I love being a parent...

For people who know they are too broken (emotionally/spiritually) to have children, let someone else do it. If you are so consumed by yourself and know you can't care for another human being, please don't. You will damage them. Let someone else love them while you get better. No one is judging you.

Being a good parent is filled with lots of happy memories, tragic accidents, fear, joy, laughter, love, embarrassment, courage, and faith. I hope one day Sonny will appreciate it but until then...I will love him unconditionally.

*Read his Birthday Poem, “I dreamed you into being: An answer to my prayer”

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