We were at church for the first time with the new baby. We sat near the back of the chapel. Tristan was playing with his bracelet loom, Aspen was asleep in the car carrier, Norah was on my lap, and Mel sat next to me.
Norah asked Tristan for some of the cereal he brought as a snack, and when he wouldn’t give it to her, she flipped. She started whining right there in the chapel. She was about to start screaming when I grabbed her by the arm and said, “Stop it." Right now. You are acting like a little brat. We are in church. This is not how you act in church.”
I can’t remember ever calling Norah a brat. I’ve thought that she was acting like a brat. I’ve written about my fears that she is growing up to be a brat. But I don’t think I’d ever said it to her face.
Norah may not have fully understood what I was saying to her, but she obviously recognized that I was pissed. She got really scared, put her hands over her eyes, and started crying. Then she jumped off my lap, and snuggled next to her mother.
Mel placed her hand on Norah’s head. Then she gripped my forearm and said, “I know we have a new baby, but that doesn’t give you the right to be moody all the time.”
“Me?” I said. “I’m the moody one? You and the kids have been the difficult ones. I’m the one trying to hold us all together.”
Mel went on, reminding me of all the times I’d snapped at her in the past few days. And then brought up times I hadn’t even thought of where I’d been irritable and acted like a jerk. I didn’t realize it until later that day, (I was angry in the moment) but clearly all of us had been struggling with the stress of a new baby. It wasn’t only them.
It was me, too.
Later that day, I sat down next to Mel. She was feeding the baby.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Sorry for what?” she asked.
“Sorry for being so moody. I suppose I’m more stressed than I realized.” I went on, telling her that I was obviously struggling with the change to having a new baby, too. We talked for a while. We discussed some of the things we’d been doing over the past few days, and how both of us had been a real mess.
Mel looked exhausted, and I had to assume that I did too.
“We’re in this together,” I said.
“Yeah, I know,” Mel replied.
Later that night, I read Norah a story. She was in pink and purple PJ’s, her hair wet and neatly combed. I’d already put Tristan to bed, and Mel was caring for the baby. It was just the two of us. This doesn’t happen all that often.
We read “Every Cowgirl Needs A Horse.” Once the story was through, and Norah was calm and snuggled up next to me, I told her I was sorry. “I got really angry with you today at church. And I called you bad name. I’m really sorry, Norah. I know that having a new sister can be stressful, and I’m sorry for being mean.”
Norah looked up at me. She smiled and said, “It’s OK, daddy. You just need-a be nice to me.”
“I’ll always love you. But you know I still have to discipline you when you do something wrong. It doesn’t mean that I’m being mean. In fact, I do the same thing with Tristan, and I will do the same thing with Aspen. It’s just part of being a dad. I will say, though, that when I called you a name earlier today, I was being mean. For that I’m sorry.”
I’m not sure if she fully understood everything I’d just told her. But what I do know is that she gave me a big hug and called me a “cute daddy” like she often does when things are better.
I knew that we were all going to still struggle with adjusting to having a new baby, even me. I wasn’t the only sane person in the madhouse. Obviously, I was simply a resident. However, I also knew that each day it would get easier, just like it did with Tristan and Norah, and eventually, it wouldn’t be new anymore. It would just be life.
Thinking about that made me feel a lot better.
You would also enjoy, An Open Letter To My Newborn.
Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley