My wife and I attended a family party at her sister’s last weekend. Her neighbor and husband stopped by with their five-month-old twins, a boy, and a girl.
As it happened at this particular party, most of the kids were older, not infants. My eight-year-old daughter Juliet might have been the youngest kid at the party. So these were the only babies enjoying this family graduation party. And, as usually occurs, the babies started getting passed around like a bowl of guac. All the parents, remembering the good old days, arguing over who’s turn it was to hold them next. Holding these adorable infants, parents reminisced about the times when their kids didn’t talk back, didn’t leave towels on the bathroom floor, didn’t borrow their cars, and return them without gas. Oh my — watching your friends hold these two infants brought us right back to those days when parenting was reduced to changing diapers and breastfeeding (my wife, not me).
We have five children between us, a blended family. So each of us has done “baby parent” three times. And when you are the parent of an infant, you have a great deal to learn. I remember that first time I changed my son’s diaper, how difficult it was: ”Where do I put this while I open up that? What do I do with this cream over here? It’s getting all over me. Ugh, he’s peeing on me.” Not six weeks later I became an expert diaper changer. I could change my baby’s diaper like a Penn and Teller trick; you hardly knew it had happened. I changed my kids’ diapers everywhere. I did diaper duty on car seats, desks, even garbage pails. Anywhere I needed to. I think I could change a diaper in midair if necessary.
And so you learn.
As an educator, I am utterly fascinated by the way we learn, as we all should be. Here is an essential question: Does learning have to be difficult? Can learning come without some degree of pain and hard work? Consider parenting and the lyricism of the reverie that occurred at that party the other night. Everyone who held those babies forgot the vicissitudes of parenting, the sleepless nights, the running around, the worry, not to mention, for the women, delivering the baby, which I hear can be kinda painful. My mother was fond of saying that if God didn’t put a baby’s face over the pain of delivery, every kid in the world would be an only child. All of these challenges were forgotten. These folks preferred to reflect on how much they learned, how much they accomplished as parents, how proud they were of their children.
When it was our turn to hold the babies, they were getting fussy so no one seemed to want to take them from us. Danielle and I used whatever special parenting tricks we’ve learned to soothe them for a little over a half-hour while mom went home to get bottles to feed them. You know what, it really is like riding a bike, we are still pretty good at being “baby parents”. Danielle held Ryan, the boy, who loved looking around at all the action. I held Harper, the girl, and I used some of my special tricks to quiet her quivering lip; she even started to fall asleep in my arms. Of course, everyone at the party was saying, “Hey, you guys are naturals, you should have more kids.” People always say this.
When mom came back with the bottles, she took Ryan first. Feeling the difference between the weight of the two when I handed Harper to Danielle, my wife said, “Hey, you had the lighter one.” So funny.
I guess you learn a lot by overcoming challenging circumstances, but memories of that journey never completely fade away. That’s how learning works.