One of the wiser things that our little baby did is to decide to have red hair. Before he was born, neither his father nor I could imagine a child other than the one we have - a dark haired, fiery, sweet kid, with a small army of over-educated doctors. We even prepared to have a child with identical diagnoses, and I went to the hospital with big signs that said 'don't perforate or medicate this child!' We hung them on his little plastic bucket thing, and glared at any medical personnel who came too close. So when I finally ejected the child (after 2.25 hour of pushing, thankyouverymuch), we both sat and stared at his crop of red hair. It was like a banner, saying, HEY, DIMWAD, I AM MYSELF. NOT THIS OTHER KID YOU KEEP TALKING ABOUT! Stupid with exhaustion, it has taken us months to figure this out. I keep staring at the hair, the invisible eyebrows and eyelashes, thinking that it should have some meaning for me, but what? What??
I think the kid feels the need to keep giving us reminders as to his position on this matter, which is good, since we're pretty befuddled right now and appreciate having things explained to us slowly and carefully, perferably with small words. So, from time to time his father and I will put the child down and then stare, mildly astonished that he is willing to stay in his swing/in his carseat/on his changing pad, and has not begun roaring in fury over not being held in parental arms. He does not offer loud, irritable commentary on the temperature of his diaper wipes. He actually seems intrigued by the silly things dangling from his hand-me-down gymini. He does not view car rides as an opportunity to screech. And, most of all, he seems to agree with me in regards to sleeping.
Aside from food, sleep is, of course, the great bugbear of early parenting. Everybody has an opinion about it, everybody's done research and is happy to instruct you, including people who do not have children of their own. And don't be fooled: anyone who says, well, I'm not saying this will work for you, but we tried... even this kind, gentle approach deserves a poopy diaper in the face. Because when you are deep in sleeping hell, you are too tired to read the books and no amount of kindly, well meant advice will haul you out unless it comes with a babysitter, but you might consider thanking the well-meaning for offering you a punching bag. My suggestion to anyone who has a good sleeper is NEVER MENTION IT. Count your blessings in private. Of course, I was so excited about our baby's philosophy on sleep that, once he issued his position paper on the matter I grabbed the phone and called my sister in law. She, being a loving human being refrained from reaching into the phone, grabbing my epiglottis and yanking a few times. Which is serious restraint since, as a mother herself, she's bound to be a little testy on the subject.
How to Deal With the New Parent: hold the baby and let them sleep. No, really. I'd forgo any number of cute little outfits in favor of this gift. Lack of sleep colors everything else in your life, and you can spend your days walking around foggily aware that something fun might be happening, but you are to tired to figure out what it is. Offer me a vacation, and you'd better mean a night of uninterrupted sleep, because otherwise I'll spend time blearily staring at beautiful vistas while wondering exactly how wrong is it, really, for a nursing mother to mainline caffeine. Before I had children, I held firm on 9.5 hours of sleep per night, and it was a beautiful thing. Ha.
Unlike his brother, who for years has firmly believed that sleeping should be done in stretches of 2 hours and 45 minutes, max, this little person is prepared to experiment with SIX hour stretches - one per night, anyway. I'm in shock - and a little in pain, since my body was completely prepared to feed the kid at least three or four times last night, and I woke up wearing melons where my grapefruits used to be. Ouch. But what a wonderful pain.
Nope, he isn't his brother, and we're all deeply grateful. Although, I should point out that for a kid who aims to carve out his own path, his numbers are against him - he and his brother both were born at 10:17 on the clock...and that red hair may yet go dark. But for now, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.