Okay, I admit it. I didn’t really get it before I had one. What’s the big deal? They’re just little people, only they’re harder to entertain and I have no idea what to talk to them about. I mean sure, they’re cute, but I have no desire to spend any actual time with them. They don’t get me. I don’t know what they want from me. They have nothing important to say!
I have nieces and nephews, and I love every single one of them, but I never totally understood them until I had Garrett. I don’t think everyone is like me. As a matter of fact, I think there are tons of people who are just innately good with children. They have a childlike quality that kids relate to, and a place inside themselves they can tap into that tells them how to make a kid smile. I have that place now, but I was not able to tap into it before. Maybe it was hidden in my uterus and needed a baby to activate it.
Here’s an example of what an ass I used to be around kids. My boyfriend’s (now husband’s) niece and nephew were in town and we all went to Universal Studios. Britt was eight and Tyler was three. Britt and I had a pretty good thing going. I could tell she thought I was cool, and I thought she was quite adorable and very well-behaved. We were sharing laughs as the day went on and I was proud of myself for not screwing up. She then convinced me to go on some Jurassic water ride that looked terrifying. As we stood in line watching the people on the ride screaming and getting soaked I turned to her and said, “I hate you!” Of course, I was kidding. I was being sarcastic. I thought everyone understood sarcasm. Even eight-year-olds who weren’t born into a sarcastic family. Well, that did it. She looked up at me with such hurt in her eyes, and started to cry. OH SHIT! I had no idea what to do. I scrambled. “I WAS KIDDING”, I said. “Please, Britt. I was totally joking! I don’t hate you at all! I LOVE YOU! You’re the BEST!” She didn’t seem to believe me. I said I hated her, so that must be the truth. It was a lesson in kids taking what you say seriously.
When my brother’s kids were born, I was equally inept. I loved their son, Sam immediately. He was adorable with his big, blue eyes and curly, blond hair. I’d hold him and coo. But I wasn’t ever totally comfortable with my skills. Am I holding him right? Is he okay? Should I make a funny face? Is he pooping? And even when Julia came along, I still wasn’t really… There. Again, I loved her. Again, I was confused and a little unsure.
Russ was an expert from the get-go. I think he’s like his mom. If there’s a kid around, they gravitate toward my mother-in-law, and the big, cuddly man I married. He doesn’t even have to try. Kids just always like him.
So, I was afraid that I wouldn’t bond with my own child. I thought I’d be tentative and scared and like, “What the hell am I supposed to do with you?” But, of course, I wasn’t. It was easy and second-nature for me. I knew what he needed, what he meant with each sigh and burp, and exactly how to make him laugh or fall asleep. That was all a surprise. But the bigger surprise was that, all of a sudden, I understood OTHER kids too! I liked them and wanted to be around them! I’d point them out to Russ and say, “Aw. Isn’t that little guy cute?”
I understand now. I wish I had always understood. Kids are nothing short of amazing, little, sponge-brained, innocent, beautiful beings. They deserve pure happiness. They generate pure joy. Sure, they’re stinky and loud and they need you to do EVERY LITTLE FRIGGIN’ THING for them, but they are so much damn fun to be around. And they’re funny! And smart! They can teach us so much about who we are and the world around us. Now I see a kid, and I feel like I get them and they get me.
I think the biggest thing is that I used to look at kids and think, “What do you want from me?” Now I look at them and think, “What can I offer you? And what will you show me?” I thank God that Garrett activated that part of me. It’s a part I cherish. I’m jealous of those of you who have it naturally. But at least I got it!