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.
So without further ado, here are five resolutions I’m going to try to commit to keeping, gleaned from our son Jackson’s first wild and weird five months:
1. See the wonder instead of just the worry.
On Dec. 10, we had our first real medical scare when we had to rush the baby to the emergency room. He had been sick on and off since Halloween (thank you, daycare!) but, by this point, his chest was rattling badly and his breathing seemed labored. Thankfully, Ashlee works for his pediatrician, so we sent her a video of his chest movements and she suggested we take him in. We were panicked, of course, as the nurses swabbed, poked and prodded him, but Jackson was enamored by the hospital. He looked at the lights in delight, whipped his head around each time a machine beeped and greeted each new visiting nurse or doctor with a huge smile.
It turns out he had RSV, a virus that is common among adults but can cause severe respiratory complications for babies. We had to keep him home from daycare for several weeks, juggling our work schedules (and those of our parents, thankfully!) and do nebulizer treatments around the clock to keep his airways open. All of this threw us for a loop but, again, Jackson was happy as could be, despite being so sick. While worrying seems to be par for the course with a baby, I hope that at times I can tamp that down a bit by drawing some inspiration from Jackson’s constant wonderment.
2. Take germs seriously.
Speaking of RSV … I never wanted to be that parent who insists everyone must scrub their hands before coming within 10 feet of the baby, but I recently found myself suggesting we keep a bottle of Purell by the front door as a prerequisite for entering the house. Seeing Jackson in the hospital made Ashlee and me hyper focused on germs. I’d envision little spores of sickness on every door handle at work or all the items in my cart at the supermarket.
Just as much as we want to keep him healthy and safe, we’ve also gotten so beaten down by his sicknesses that preventing illness is also a matter of saving our sanity. Each cold means sleepless nights for him (and us), which leads to cranky moods and poor eating — perpetuating that miserable cycle. While we know exposure to germs is natural, we’re doubling down on making handwashing and hygiene top priorities — and anyone who gets Jackson sick wins him for the week!
3. Record memories better.
When Ashlee was pregnant, I wrote pages of letters to Jackson, documenting our hopes and fears, and put together a packed scrapbook of memories of us preparing for his arrival. Now that he’s here, that’s largely been shot to hell. Between constant bottle-washing, feedings, changings and trying to entertain an increasingly mobile and squirmy infant, it’s hard to find time to make our lunches for the next day, let alone document the joys and struggles of parenting.
However, this is something I want to hold myself to in 2019. Already, I’m finding it hard to remember what the first few weeks of Jackson’s life were like. Lack of sleep surely is a factor, as is the fact that he has grown and changed so much, seemingly by the day. But I know that in the future I’m going to want to relive those fleeting times — both for sentiment and levity — and I want him to be able to glimpse what his early days were like.
We have a baby book that has space to track all of Jackson’s seemingly mundane but meaningful firsts — each time he tries a new food, and the first time he sits up on his own — so I’ve moved that to our coffee table to remind ourselves to jot notes in it during the peaceful hour we usually have after he falls asleep and before we go to bed. Just recently, Jackson has started a new thing where he wakes up at 6:15 a.m. in song instead of screaming, so this week I started recording his melodious tunes. (If he one day wins a Grammy, look out for these videos in his appearances on the talk-show circuit.) I also just started a note in my phone of odd things we have found ourselves saying: “Please don’t vomit on the dog.” “There’s poop on the couch.” “Stop pinching my eye.”
4. Connect to other parents.
In this digital age, it’s very easy to become overly reliant on the internet for answering all of our parenting questions. Weird rash? Google it. Sleep regression? Google it. The best teething solution? Google it.
While the World Wide Web surely has plenty of information, obviously not everything is trustworthy. Much of the information out there for weary parents desperate for advice is produced by those looking to make a buck by promoting their own brand, product or idea as the end-all solution. Then, there are all the online parenting forums featuring often-contradictory tips, as what worked for some may not work for others. Instead of heading right to the ’net for answers, I want to start turning instead to the parents in our lives. While unwanted advice from family and friends has made our eyes twitch, I still think it’s important to solicit tips when we actually need them from real, live and trustworthy sources.
To that end, groups like Philadelphia Family Pride are a great source of community, and I’m eager to get involved with such initiatives to build connections with other LGBT parents and broaden the circles among which Jackson is raised.
5. Make time for us.
In the past, Ashlee and I would often go out for an impromptu dinner for some “us” time. Well, “us” is now a bit more complicated — a meal out involves meticulous scheduling around naps, packing a diaper bag like we’re going on a 10-day safari and wolfing down our food, lest the little one start to get unpleasant in a restaurant of judgey onlookers. In other words, it leaves little time for Ashlee and me to actually converse or connect.
I want to do both in 2019, because I’ve come to see that your co-parent is truly your lifeline — there to take a screaming child off your hands when you’ve reached your limit, there to toss a bib with NBA-like precision from across the room as soon as spit-up starts and there to do whatever it takes. Even if it means reading the entirety of “The Tales of Peter Rabbit” twice and then jumping to the copyright information because it’s keeping a smile on the baby’s face.
It’s very easy to be consumed by all things baby, but I think it’s important for parents to hang onto those aspects of their identity that defined them and made them happy long before the “parent” label was added. While nurturing Jackson will remain our top priority, I also want to make enough time to continue to nurture the relationships in my life, especially my marriage. Even if it’s simply watching a show together after he goes to bed or plopping the baby in the stroller and taking him on a walk together after work to chat about our days, reconnecting can help reinvigorate and refocus parents who’ve fallen prey to baby tunnel vision — because I think to truly be at the top of one’s parent game, you have to be happy and healthy in all other aspects.