Sunday, January 27, 2008

FRAGILE! Newborn babies are not as breakable as they appear

Little bitty Patience holding newborn Persistence, on her birthday.

Itsy bitsy newborn Persistence, who proved that newborns are much hardier than we thought, after all.

Yesterday began with big, exciting, happily anticipated news: a new niece! Just before 8:30 a.m. my youngest sister-in-law and her husband welcomed their new daughter. We're very happy, and today are going up to meet her. The kids are beside themselves with excitement---you know, the sort that makes you wonder if visiting is really a good idea.

Also, yesterday, while folding laundry in my room, I shamelessly eavesdropped on the kids in the playroom.

They were bickering. Patience was explaining that the new baby cousin was a baby baby, not a doll baby, and Persistence---because she's Persistence---argued the other line. I don't really think she thinks this, I think it's just her being her. But they are chattering happily about holding, hugging, squeezing, and so forth.

That's sweet and all, but also chills the blood in my veins.

I'll set their expectations before we go. And hope like crazy that works.

My sister-in-law is a new, first time mom. I know how that feels. Toddlers and small children look like Danger Number 1 sometimes, especially as they race at your newborn with their arms and hands outstretched (offering germs and grabs and clutches), legs pumping, eyes focused on the baby, not paying attention to anything around them, including cautioning words, as they focus their entire being on Getting That Baby.

I know they will appear this way to her, unless I manage to leash the intensity somehow.

I remember the first time we went to her new house.

She and her husband custom-built a home in a prestigious neighborhood in a fancy town south of Houston. They kept a detailed blog of the entire endeavor and each time I read it I marveled and then felt tired.

"I think you have to custom-build a house before kids," I told my husband, who grunted in what I assumed was agreement. He's so busy building for other people he has little to no time or energy to build anything for us. If he did, it would be full-time work.

We flew down from Boston to visit, and walked in all shined up for the party. We paused in the large, high-ceilinged entry-way and marveled. While we did so, Patience's eyes lit on five thousand valuable and vulnerable breakable objets (no, not misspelled, at that level, they aren't objects, they are objets). And she was off. Along with the cousins.

Gorgeous white furniture rested on beautiful piled white carpet, surrounded by white walls. Fancy and lovely white sculptures sat on top of glass tables and white Greek columns. The coffee table proved most intriguing to the children: woven and twisted columns offered multiple levels of glass top tables, and crawling avenues for the fascinated kids.

My older sister-in-law and I stood side-by-side, our bodies tense, our minds in policing mode, and our mouths busy, "Slow down! Inside voice! Look with eyes, not with hands! Ask first! NO! OH NONONONONONO!"

My brother-in-law and husband chased the children, zone or man-on-man as was necessary.

My mother-in-law comforted my younger sister-in-law as she tried to remain calm and happy hostess like while four children under six raced through her new home, her new, beautiful, white, breakable home.

There was very little visiting.

As was inevitable, things fell, got knocked, and eventually, her husband began carting things into their bedroom, which they then closed off. I don't recall anything broken or damaged, though, other than many sets of nerves.

My younger sister-in-law maintained her cheerful and polite attitude and smile, and even jokingly said, "Umm, hmm, maybe my house isn't quite ready to host children yet," as we gathered our things and left as soon as we could without appearing rude.

We buckled Patience into her car seat, and sat in our seats, sighing in relief that It Was Finally Over.

"My gosh," my husband said, "I wasn't sure we'd make it out of there without some permanent damage."

We both looked at Patience, sitting quietly, calmly and happily in her car seat.

"I'm not sure we did," I said, "My nerves are wrecked. What is it about beautiful and breakable that so attracts kids!"

My younger sister-in-law did slowly, over time, modify her house, just a bit, mainly the living room. Visits became easier on everyone's nerves. But the last time I was there, I looked at it with Mom Eyes...and pondered her due date, barely a month away. She saw me looking and said, "I guess we have a few more things to do before the baby comes, huh?"

I looked at the gorgeous statues, the glass topped tables, the white walls, the lovely silver sculptures and flowers gracing the dining room table...and I said, "Oh, you have time. Six months, probably. I believe in teaching kids to respect things, and not touch or grab. Where better to do that than in your own home? You know, for when you fail. But you'll have to figure out what works for you and your daughter. Depends on what kind of kid she is, how far you'll have to go baby proofing. Patience didn't need too much---she respects limits---but Persistence? We had to go All the Way."

She looked at me and I thought: she heard the first sentence and then it was all mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah. Like all not-yet-parents do, I suspect she thinks it's all a matter of Parenting Right. Like all not-yet or new parents do, I suspect she thinks her kid won't be like that.

To my sister-in-law and her husband? I say congratulations...and good luck.

Also? I humbly offer a bottle of ranch dressing and a glass of wine. It makes eating words much, much easier. ;)

They'll do great. I'm sure of it.

And my kids? Will be fine with the baby. Newborns are hardier than they appear, but so am I, and my girls know perfectly well how to be sweet and gentle.

I am the very embodiment of trust today.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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realitytesting said...

I had to laugh through all of this. I am a sister-in-law a sister-in-law whose house is STILL that pristine and fragile many, many years after the birth of her two middle school-aged boys. She trained them to be very much like she is, in terms of organization. The first time we met her first son, he was days old, and she? Was wiping him down with washcloths soaked in ice water....because he "wasn't on a sleeping schedule" yet. Every time the poor thing dosed, she hit him with the washcloth. This is the sort of order she keeps. And her boys wouldn't think to disrupt her household. Of course, keeping them sedated with anti-anxiety meds throughout their lives has probably helped as well, but whatever it takes....

Aliki2006 said...

I'm laughing at this one, too--so well told!

Jeff said...

Our fireplace has a big granite slab for a base. I always worry that wobbly new toddlers are going to fall onto it and crack their head open.

So far so good, but I do make all visiting parents sigh a waver.

Robert said...

Children have an amazing ability to find new ways to hurt themselves, others, and things. They also have an amazing ability to respect things when they're well taught. My kids are great with my wife's piano and marimba, for instance, because they've been taught.

New parents are always interesting to watch, especially when they express their opinions of how things are done.

Family Adventure said...
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Family Adventure said...

Trying this one again:

You nailed it. It's all about "parenting right."

May I offer a *bottle* of wine, instead? Speaking from experience, there's a lot of words to eat, and I'm not sure a glass can do it :)

Congrats on your new niece. I'm sure she's gorgeous, and hope the girls were able to contain their excitement a wee bit when visiting. :)


Christine said...

congratulations auntie!!!!! and I know LOTS of new parents who think "parenting right" is the simple key to everything.


Lawyer Mama said...


"parenting right"

Baaaaaahaaaaaaaaa! Snort.

I remember when I was like that. I also hate, hate, hate going over to a childless person's house with my kids. I usually try to get out of it. They say, "Oh, please bring them!" I think, "You have no idea what that means!"

liv said...

OOOF!!! I HEART babies!!!

slouching mom said...

oh that little patience. look how tiny she is.


slouching mom said...
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Kyla said...

So true. So, so true.

I hate the experience of being in Those Homes with small children. Just as relaxing as a jog through a minefield, I think.

annenahm said...

lolol congratulations!

Magpie said...

But make it white wine for the white carpet...

Magpie said...

PS I have oriental rugs...they hide all sins, including red wine.

ewe are here said...

This is funny, all that white!

And, yep, like you say, I suspect she believes it's all just a matter of Parenting Right. heh heh

Congratulations, auntie.