Bryan Paul Sullo

The Truth About Babies

In Character Development, Family on 17 November 2013 at 2:52 pm

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret about children that those who have them will rarely admit. Those of you who have, follow along and see if you agree.

Here’s the secret: There is nothing fun about newborn babies.

Oh, sure, when they’re not yours, they’re cute, and soft, and fun to hold. Imagine, though, if the next time you held a newborn, the parents threw you a diaper bag and ran out the door never to be seen again. It wouldn’t be long before that cute little bundle of joy had your last bundle of nerves tied in a knot.

On the road to becoming a father, I had dreams of what that would look like: There I was, laying on the couch, baby laying on my chest, cooing softly as I read Kipling out loud to my progeny’s receptive ears. Next, I was working on some project in the basement, baby in a swing, looking on attentively and trying to understand the finer points of handicraft.

Here’s the thing: Newborn babies require both hands. They need almost constant attention. They don’t smile or interact with you. The best they can do is to look at you with a creepy, judgmental stare. Newborns can’t hold a bottle. They cry inexplicably at times. Feeding happens every three hours, around the clock, whether you’re ready or not. (That’s three hours from when the last feeding started, not when it ended.) Sometimes it happens every two hours. Sometimes you get lucky, and they’re not hungry for four. But, sometimes, a feeding takes two hours because they fall asleep in the middle of it, or need a diaper change, or two, or three. There is no pause button. You can’t stop and come back after you’ve had a chance to clear your head.

I thought changing diapers would be the hardest part. It is so much harder than I thought. A boy will pee as soon as you take the diaper off. It doesn’t matter how wet he already is. And it’s not like on TV where there’s a little squirt that gets you in the face and everyone laughs. What goes up must come down, and it comes down all around them, soaking their clothes and whatever they’re on. Oh, and then there’s projectile pooping. That’s fun. Especially in a public place.

Putting the new diaper on is a chore too. When you need their legs to be straight, they tuck them up to their chests. When you need them not to put their foot in the dirty diaper, they straighten their legs out as far as they can go until they find it. In fact, at every moment, no matter what you’re doing with your baby, they will do the exact opposite of what you want them to do.

No. There is nothing fun about a newborn baby. However, worthwhile endeavors do not need to be fun. In fact, the most worthwhile endeavors are rarely pleasant at the time.

I grew up in the age of video games. As a child, my free time was filled with extra lives, level-ups, and “big bosses” who needed defeating. Sure, video games are challenging, and you get a high from getting past that hard level, but they are also fun. We live in a video game culture: We’ve equated “fun” with “rewarding”.

We’re all about having fun, and if we’re not having fun, we assume something is wrong. Work is supposed to be fun now, and if you’re not having fun, it’s time to find a new job. School has to be fun, or the kids won’t learn. Churches find themselves struggling to make their services more “fun” to compete with all of the other fun things people might have to do. Even our fun has to have an extra layer of fun: TV used to be entertaining enough, now we have to vote people off the island. Hanging out with others used to be an end in itself. Now we set “play-dates” for our kids and need event planners just to have dinner with friends.

The problem with all this fun is that it’s inherently selfish. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time, but when we build our lives around fun, it becomes all about “me”. What do I want out of this experience? How can I be satisfied? That’s not a life; that’s an addiction.

If there is one thing that having a baby will do, it will shine a spotlight on any area of selfishness in your life. Others may not see it, but you will. When you find yourself trying to figure out how to hold your baby and his bottle in a way that allows you to check Facebook on your phone, it suddenly hits you that your priorities need to be adjusted. Maybe what I want isn’t as important as I thought. Maybe what I need is to do what is needful. Maybe we all need to stop relying on “fun” for meaning in our lives.

Four months into the baby experience, I can say that it is worthwhile. They smile now. They don’t pee immediately upon removing their diapers. There are still long nights and stressful times, but I’m a lot less selfish.

What was the last worthwhile thing you did? Was it fun at the time? Was it worth it? Leave a comment below.

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