The Baby Illusion

It’s 7 a.m. and my almost two year old son is sucking on a lollipop. Watching Teletubbies.

This is an image of giving up.

There’s this arrogance many of us have before we have a child that comes from the illusion that the challenge of having a baby is like any other challenge. Hard – but doable.

Kind of like when you watch The Amazing Race and think, “I can carry a chicken on my head while rollerskating through Mexico City. What’s these rubes’ problems?”

Or when you go to the modern art museum and scoff at a Rothko: “Come on, I did that in preschool!”

You hear that frustrated mother struggling with a baby on an airplane or watch the father close to tears with a toddler at the supermarket, and you think, “These people are sooo lame.” You make a face at the baby and it giggles. There: You’ve proven your point.

Someone gives you a copy of Ann Lamott’s memoir on having her child, Operating Instructions – and by “you” I am, of course, talking about myself – and you, eight months pregnant and high on hormones, smugly roll your eyes at her descriptions of bleary-eyed, hair-tearing episodes with her infant. “She really is a wack job,” you conclude, recalling those graduate school debates with your best friend of Ann Lamott vs. Natalie Goldberg.

Then you have the baby.

And sometime soon thereafter – maybe the first day, maybe not until the sixth month, maybe not even until the kid is almost two and you can’t take it anymore and make him stop crying with a lollipop – I wrote about the weaning process recently, but it was just the beginning – the visions of all those people in the grocery stores and airplanes and Ann Lamott herself come rising before you, ghosts of your ignorant, arrogant past – and all you want to do is crawl on your hands and knees begging for forgiveness.

I am so sorry. I had no idea and no right to judge.

Because having a kid is not like pulling all-nighters in college; it is not like a military boot camp. It is also not like The Amazing Race or painting a Rothko,, either. It may be possibly like some cult indoctrinations or torture techniques used in totalitarian regimes. But I am sure it not like those much, either.

Nothing else melts you so utterly, strains you and pushes you and drives you mad and breaks your heart and fills your soul and stresses you out on every level – spiritually, mentally, physically, psychically, emotionally, intellectually, socially…

There’s no way to describe it or portray it that can wipe the smirk off the uninitiated’s face.

So, while I ask for forgiveness to those I wrongly judged in the past, I also say to those of you judging me for the lollipop:

It’s okay. I forgive you.


One Response to The Baby Illusion

  1. Amy Nash says:

    Excellent, Amy! Having read this and the one about french mommies, I now can confess that I left PBS Kids on for the better part of 2 days last week so I could read The Year of Living Biblically in time for Book Club. My toddler was happy, and my book club was so impressed that I read it in 2 days. (I was proud too.) I also can confess that I, too, was the perfect parent before I had children.

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