What are the waters I am swimming in right now? Well, Charlie is now a little more than one month old, and Jack will be four years old I need a month. Both these passages of time are equally boggling to my mind. I am consistent in reminding myself to just stop for a moment and allow myself to experience the joy that is my life right now. I find it plentiful and everywhere when I stop and look for it. It’s in the tiny, gassy smiles of Charlie. It’s in the moments of absolute beauty that result from Allison falling asleep with our new son on her chest. It’s in the explosion of new songs that Jack continually belts out. It’s EVEN in the genius of his manipulation of this entire situation.
As our patience with each other and the world is being tested by the doubling of all parental responsibilitues, so is our boundaries with Jack. He is very aware of what we can and cannot do right now, and is seemingly using all of it to his advantage. He wants more attention from his mother than he ever has before. Activities that were normally only the domain of “Jack and Daddy” are now open invite according to Jack. The problem here is that, for the first time, there exists this new thing that sometimes attention must be given to over Jack’s wants. Jack does not like this.
I don’t believe it’s my job to understand this. I’m Jack’s father. I’m Charlie’s father. There are things that Jack knows that Charlie doesn’t. Part of my job is to sort between the acceptable and unacceptable behavior on Jack’s part. To reward or discipline according to a similar tact as agreed upon with Allison. It would be easy to write off Jack’s behavior and stick with the notion that he just needs to do what I say. To do so might be a more proper way of parenting, but I think I’d be doing myself and him a disservice to not show some empathy. My tendency might be to say “Ok. Let’s go, Jack. Yes, there’s a new baby. Now let’s get back to NORMAL.” To do that would be to ignore a truth about our family: that we are all healing in our own way and our own time.
A friend or ours managed to illuminate Jack’s perspective in a way that I’d not thought of before. She brought to my attention that Allison has, for a long time, existed in this state of constant anxiety. Since Gwen died, whether it’s consciously recognized or not, there was this rawness. Once Charlie was born and we heard him cry there was a cry of relief exuded from my wife that could have moved mountains. She is, for want of a better description, “lighter” now. I can see the change. Her closest friends bear witness to it. It’s evident, especially to Jack. In the earliest days of Charlie’s life, my mother was in town to help out. One night after giving Jack a bath, he apparently told my mom that “Mommy’s not sad anymore.” There is more truth to that than I think Jack will ever know. My four year old son has known his mother one way for a long time and this is new.
We are, all of us, anxious to get to whatever the new normal is going to be. In the rush to get there, I (and Jack) sometimes lose sight that there is no new normal. There is no status quo to be continually maintained. We are as we were before. Hopefully, continually moving forward and not rolling back. New challenge, new action, new results. Just like before Charlie was here. The only real difference, now, is that there is potential for double the heartbreak, double the joy, double the problems, double the rewards. Whichever of those they will be is pretty much up to me, and just how happy I want to be.
Thanks for listening. Be well.