The Fatherhood Chronicles LXXVIII

Transitions

It should go without saying that changing from a married household to a family household was a big transition. I still remember those early weeks when Anna struggled with the effects of the hormonal changes and lack of sleep. There were many tears and feelings of helplessness, even hopelessness. She received appropriate care for post-partum depression, and got the sort of additional support from friends here in Chicago that often came just in time. (This was before we started attending All Saints regularly as a whole family.)

Distracted as I was able to be with school and work, my own struggles revolved around my impatience with myself at my obvious inadequacies as a parent. I was learning how to be a dad at the same time Anna was learning to be a mom, and Sofie to be a daughter. These things sorted themselves out in time. I learned that my salvation will come precisely in and through my successes and failures as a parent, that Sofie has a guardian angel–and more importantly a heavenly Father who loves and cares for her in ways utterly ineffable. I learned that the darker days were earliest on, as my body ached for sleep and my emotions fell in line with that lack. Most of all, I learned that parental sorrow is almost never without its greater and deeper joys. I have been completely overwhelmed by these graces. May I also be made worthy of them.

But now we are in a whole new time of transition: from that of a household with a child, to a household with children. As unutterable were the feelings of helplessness then, so are they as unspeakable now. The old impatience is there still, and the lack of sleep, already anticipated, still hits as hard. Having gone through nearly two years of raising Sofie, we find ourselves with the skills we did not once have. We do not panic now when Delaina cries inexplicably. We know that sometimes newborns just do that. We are better able to gauge Delaina’s needs than we ever were with Sofie.

Now, however, when we could otherwise enjoy our parental skill set earned over the last couple of years, we find ourselves having to learn new skills: parenting two children. One would not think this so hard, at least in theory. Just do what was done with the first child–minus the mistakes–and double it. How far from the truth! The “No” imperatives that flow from our mouths to Sofie surely overwhelm her as they do us. Whereas we were already in the midst of the limit-setting of the “terrible two’s” now we have a whole new list relative to Delaina. We also have a whole new reservoir of impatience when Sofie does not meet our demands.

This, of course, furthers her own acting out, and this simply perpetuates the cycle of “No’s” and offering either/or alternatives. She is overwhelmed as are we. So much so that last night at dinner, after a long acting-out episode, she climbed into Anna’s lap and fell asleep. The tender trust and exhaustion Sofie exhibited pierced us deeply. Anna hugged her and her maternal tears fell down on Sofie’s slumbering head. I prayed silently for the Lord to have mercy on us all, through the prayers of his all-holy Mother.

I know these days will give way to joy and laughter, for they are already filled with these things. But the hard moments remain. Please God that they continue to be the means of our salvation.