Our grandson, Zackary Gavin, was born on October 24, 2013. My son and daughter-in-law’s closest yardstick at the time was their seventeen-month-old nephew and so they eagerly anticipated a baby who slept most of the time, could be passed around at whim (whether awake or asleep) and when awake would lie quietly looking around at his new world. Zackary was not exactly like that… not even close. Instead they had to deal with a small (5lb 12oz), hungry baby who cried a lot from the get-go, didn’t sleep for any decent stretch of time, woke easily and had acid reflux to boot. Now, at three months, Zack is still a hungry baby, cries a lot, doesn’t sleep for any decent stretch of time, wakes easily but (at least) takes something for his acid reflux. Without humour in our lives, we can sometimes succumb to despair; hence, our nickname for beautiful, much-loved Zackary, is Zack Attack.
The joy of being a grandmother is enormous and I think my greatest asset is having perspective, born from raising four children and from being wiser and older. When I look at Zack, I see past this transient time and understand that these same characteristics that make him so difficult as a baby, will flower into a person full of life with a capacity for intense love. I see him becoming someone who attacks his existence with vigour and energy. And when I look in his eyes that look so intently back at mine, I see intelligence and a desire to seek answers to life’s great mysteries. To think these things as a grandmother is my prerogative and I make no excuses for them.
I don’t, however, for one second think that my perspective gives me the right to dismiss the anguish of these first time parents, as they struggle with sleep deprivation and not knowing when things will ease up. They need to be this way because it is this perspective that will allow them to get to understand Zack and love him in a way that fits. They feel too often that they are floundering but I see parents who are growing to be experts on their little boy. I remember many times (to many to count) where I felt like I was floundering as a parent. Retrospectively, I understand now that each and every one of those times helped me understand my child a little more and perhaps equally helped me understand myself more. The old joke that parenting doesn’t come with a manual must have been created by a parent who really understood that it couldn’t possibly, and the most successful parents are those who grasp this early on. Just as clothing comes in different sizes, shapes and styles to suit the differences in our bodies, so each parenting experience, with each child, must be tailor made for them.
So if Zack needs to be swaddled tightly and rocked in a quiet, dark room with a white-noise machine (sometimes the kitchen extractor fan will work too) and a pacifier in his mouth, AND loved to distraction by his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, then so be it. That’s what Zack needs… that is, until his needs change but that’s a whole other discussion.