The Importance of Babies
Fresh Starts and Traditions
The holidays are upon us and no time of year is more tradition-based than this. A lot of you are brand new families just starting to build your holiday traditions. What a wonderful time of life. You're very lucky.
One of my family's traditions is one shared by millions of families. It's a particularly good one. Every Thanksgiving we go around the table and talk about things we're grateful for. This year, there were the usuals: health, family and friends. There were also a few that were more unique and thought provoking. One daughter was grateful we don't live in a war torn nation; specifically because it's safe to go for a walk—another Thanksgiving tradition. Another daughter was thankful for sunshine and we all unanimously agreed. We live in Oregon where it's gray and rainy much of the time. It's been years since we've had such a gorgeous Thanksgiving for our hike by the river to search for blue herons. Yet another was grateful for puppies. She's in college, away from home, frequently exhausted and stressed out. One of her stress-busters is perusing Pet-Finders online. A few minutes drooling over puppies and she's instantly happier studying again. OK, very cute. I agree. Her gratitude for puppies though, provoked a conversation about the importance of baby-things in our lives.
Here's why babies are so important, besides their obvious and innate ability to bump up the world's cute factor. Every baby offers a new chance for everyone in the family. Even parents who aren't well equipped or well suited for the job get this new opportunity to be better people. Parents get a re-do with their children as grandparents. Siblings become aunts and uncles and often much kinder to their niece/nephew than they ever were to their siblings. Babies bring out the best of intentions, a fresh batch of good will and love, and new resolutions to do the best you can to be good for this baby.
Every hospital gets its share of parents who aren't ever going to be mother/father-of-the-year. We care for drug addicted, violent, severely impoverished, ignorant and otherwise impaired parents who just can't raise a child. There's nothing sadder than the moment when a mother realizes she won't be allowed to take her child home. Even if all her other children are in state custody in foster homes, she hopes this child will be one she'll be able to keep. Her addictions or lifestyle issues may be so overwhelming and debilitating that she can't overcome them to meet the minimum standards for parenting (as mandated by the courts) but almost every mother wants her child. Each baby is a chance for a fresh start. Sometimes the baby pushes its mother towards a better life, even if it's without them.
Babies teach us all about "be here now." They'll never be more "in the moment" than they are in infancy when being held, breathing, eating and sleeping are enough activity. Parents too are content with sitting still, holding, nursing, and watching their sleeping child. Who needs anything else? The real reason new mothers have a hard time getting a shower? It takes a lot of time being present with a baby. It's all you can do. Later, when they're older, the future takes over and everyone races back into the pace of living but for a while, when they're babies, we're content to just be.
At this time of year, so ripe with tradition, many of you are starting your first holiday season with new babies, new families and as new parents. Absorb it. Be present and content just being with your family. Come up with dorky traditions that'll mean a lot to you. For my family, it's watching birds and dogs and taking walks on usually gray days. It's spending all day in the kitchen cooking together. It's about laughing at stuff that's so stupid yet so intimate that we all have tears running from our eyes and milk shooting across the table. It's about being grateful for safety, sunshine and time together. For those of you having your first baby, it's a very fresh start to a new kind of living. For those adding to your clan, it's another chance to be your best while you add another beloved to your personal collection of favorite people. Whatever your traditions are, reflect and be grateful for the baby you're having that gives you and yours another chance to live well.
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