People say that having kids changes your life. Personally, I think it changed my brain.
I think I first began to notice this change somewhere between my daughters 6 month and 1 year doctor’s appointments. For the first six months, we were as green as parents can be. We worried about everything and would just use what I now call the scientific method to understand why my daughter was crying.
“That child is hungry,” a very kind older neighbor had said to me one night as I was walking her up and down the block to try and calm her.
“Oh,” I said knowingly, ”The doctor said not to feed her any more than once every three hours.“
She looked at me with kindly pity, but she didn’t mince her words. She put both hands on her hips and chided me like a grade school teacher would instruct a wayward boy.
”Give that child a bottle,“ she said, ”The doctor doesn’t come home with you.“
I stopped arguing. I got the bottle. She was right. My little girl must have been starving.
Since then, I’ve trusted my instincts more, and they’ve grown sharper with use. I can usually tell now when to:
- Go to the park.
- Suggest a book.
- Go on an adventure.
- Sing out nonsense words.
- Get ice cream.
- Order a time out.
- Pretend to cry and faint.
Along with many other home remedies I never imagined would be necessary or would work. I feel like Luke Skywalker sometimes after having trained with Yoda.
But I did not feel like a true Jedi until this last year helping to manage my son’s cerebral palsy.
My son has a weak left side, which is the result of a pre-birth stroke to the right side of his brain. It’s impeded his ability to move normally and it made him especially dependent on us for far longer than my daughter was. His speech has also been delayed (we’re not sure if this is the result of the stroke or not) and he’s only recently begun to use words and signs to communicate with us.
And for the first year, he wouldn’t sleep more than two hours at a shot.
I think his sleeplessness was party due to his inability to adjust his little body in bed. I speculate too that his brain was still in the process of re-wiring itself; learning (not re-learning) how to function without the control centers that were affected by the stroke. I say I think because, even the neurologist couldn’t say what was going on with my son.
”Whaaaa!“ ; ”Eh, Eh, Eh!“ ; ”Ahh! Ahh! Ahh! Ahhhhhhhhhh!“
We had to learn what these (and a thousand various sounds) meant was going on inside his mind and body. It felt like we had to develop special mind powers.
My wife and I must have lost a year of sleep between us. After a while we began to look at each other in the morning like two depleted soldiers in one of the army’s advanced training schools.
The two of us became, after a while, like war hardened commandos:
- Sleeping with one eye open.
- Able to come to focus from a deep sleep instantly.
- Able to go for weeks on an hour or less of sleep.
- Laser like focus on a single problem - think changing a diaper in the dark with a child flailing arms and legs.
These changes did not come without their cost.
We were cranky and difficult to be around; we were exhausted and foggy; we had less focus for other tasks.
I became a real bear to be around at work too. Each time a new problem arrived at my office; or someone cut me off in traffic; or a thoughtless person would offer unhelpful suggestions about child rearing; I had to fight off the instinct to just lay into them or simply level them.
”Hi - ya!“ was the sound Miss Piggy used to make when she’d get angry enough to fight. I began to hear that sound in my brain at these moments.
I think I was trying to focus my negative energy away from the kids while I was undergoing this radical transformation. I know I left a trail of stunned coworkers behind me at work on the days when I couldn’t control my temper. I’m normally very political. During this time I took any opportunity my adversaries offered to respond with a verbal counterpunch.
”Hi - ya! Take that you well rested fools!“
”They’re lucky,“ I used to tell myself, ”I’m not carrying a real light saber.“
Things are easier now. The physical therapy has helped tremendously. The boy can move. The boy can speak a little. We’re starting to get a more logical picture of what’s going on with our son. It makes it easier to help him.
He normally sleeps for longer stretches now too - often now we get a night of unbroken rest.
But the change has occurred and those powers we acquired over the last year seem to have become permanent. GingerB who commented on my blog the other night, calls these extra sensory feelings a spideysense. I think she’s got the right description. Just like Peter Parker, we suddenly undergo a kind of marvel-like transformation that leaves us this way. There’s no going back either.
I find that my wife and I get more done these days with less talk and discussion. There’s more unstated coordination that occurs with the children and with the house. I also find that I’m more adept with my interactions with people in general. Something has changed in me. It makes me feel strong.
”Use your powers for good,“ my wife has an aunt who says this playfully to us younger folk, ”Use your powers for good.“
I mean to; and I will.