Family Forward by Jen Colletta

At 6:36 p.m. Aug. 7, 2018, Jackson Anthony Colletta burst his way into the world. He was screaming, covered in gook and perfect. While Ashlee lay on the operating table with who knows what going on under the blue sheet that covered her from the neck down, we gave him his first kisses, cried and tried awkwardly to figure out the best way to hold a newborn, simultaneously terrified of how tiny his 5-pound, 4-ounce body seemed — all while marveling that someone so small could command the attention of the entire room. It was surreal and a moment neither of us will ever forget.

Before Ashlee and I took Jackson on his first family vacation earlier this summer, she shared a bit of advice a friend had mentioned: “Once you have a child, it’s not ‘vacation,’ it’s ‘making memories.’” That became a mantra we repeated many times throughout the weekend trip to Cape May, as we frantically covered our dog’s eyes so she wouldn’t bark at passing motorcyclists and wake the baby on our drive down, as Jackson peed all over my entire chest on the beach and as he had his first accidental dunking in a pool. Making memories, making memories!

Though we were only gone for 72 hours, we left with tons of memories and just as many photos — and also a few lessons:

Though we might try to protest it, Ashlee and I technically are in the millennial age group — a population known for its technology obsession. Thankfully, we’re on the older side of this demographic and can remember a time in our youth before cell phones made connectivity ubiquitous; however, we’ve admittedly found ourselves swept up in the social-media culture spawned by this digital age, which adds an interesting dimension to modern parenting.

About a month ago, I was sitting in stop-and-go traffic on Route 611, wending my way from Montgomery County toward Jackson’s dermatologist appointment in Fairmount. It was 8 a.m., rush-hour traffic was starting to build and so was my anxiety. It was my first time taking him to a doctor’s appointment alone, and I needed every detail to work perfectly —nap in the car, be pleasant in the waiting room, short wait, quick visit, no traffic on our way to daycare —to make it to my office for my 10 a.m. meeting. Piece of cake.

A few weeks ago, Jackson dipped his toe into the “testing Mommy” waters for the first time. While I was feeding him some concoction of mushed-up vegetables in his high chair, he discovered he could make a fun mess by blowing the puree out of his mouth — followed with a squeal of delight which I tried unsuccessfully tempering with a firm “No.” After about 10 bouts of this, he took the fun to the next level by trying to reach for his bowl of veggies and throw it on the floor — prompting a swift and loud reaction from me. Immediately, his face crumpled, his eyes got big, and then he welled with tears, lapsing into a pathetic little cry that persisted for some time. As did my guilt at losing my temper at a then-7-month-old baby.

Jackson is now 7 months old and has hit many of the milestones we were so looking forward to. He (mostly) consistently sleeps through the night, has two teeth and can successfully eat a laundry list of fruits and vegetables, sometimes even holding the spoon himself.

While we’ve gleefully jotted down all these firsts with their dates in his baby book, his sleeping, teething and eating accomplishments were nowhere near one-day events. Instead, each win he’s had was after a series of fits and starts (sometimes actual fits!) and trial and error. Yet, with each checkbox we’ve hit, those frustrations quickly became a muted memory as our pride in his accomplishments swelled.

    When Ashlee and I moved out of our first apartment into our first house three years ago, we were overjoyed that we finally had a kitchen we could cook in, let alone turn around in. Our first night in the house, our moving crew of friends deemed the kitchen the perpetual hangout spot in our house, christening it with a rousing beer-pong game. From date nights to holiday dinners to raucous parties, our kitchen has seen it all.

We’re three weeks into a new year, which means many are struggling to fulfill their pledges of eating healthier, working out and being more philanthropic. I’ve never been one for making a New Year’s resolution but, as I head further on this journey of raising a child, having some parameters in ink seems like the perfect way to get my parenting priorities in order.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of dirty diapers, spit-up and endless screaming (mostly from the baby, sometimes, maybe, us too, a little). Perhaps our vomit-soaked shirts and glassy eyes have labeled us as in need of advice, but Ashlee and I have been bombarded with tips from just about every side, some of which we’ve heeded and others we’ve politely gritted our teeth and smiled through. Perhaps the best piece of advice we’ve gotten came recently from one of my coworkers, who lamented just how frustrating parental advice can be: “Just do what works best for you three. Everyone else can go f*** off.” For a bewildered first-time parent, that was just the shot in the arm I needed.

In keeping with Jackson’s nursery theme, there’s a line from the final “Harry Potter” movie that has been running through my head the last few weeks: “When have any of our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose!”

Jackson made his debut at 6:36 p.m. Aug. 7, born via C-section about three weeks early. If his entrance into this world is any indication of what’s to come, Ashlee and I are in for one hell of a ride — for which no amount of planning will ever prepare us.

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