Saturday, April 9, 2011

Discovering Family

Daniel Plouffe, my guest blogger for this week, is one of my oldest and closest friends. Dan had his baby girl, Evelyne, back in January, just shortly after we had Ewa. While the girls' names and the timing of their births were only coincidence, having him come and write this blog was not.

Dan now living in Ottawa, and myself in Toronto, it's been difficult to see eachother and seemingly more difficult to keep in touch. Not knowing just how the birth of Evelyne and all that has happened since her blessed arrival has impacted Dan's life, I decided that this entry would not only serve as a fresh perspective on being a discovering dad, but would also give me a glimpse into one of the most important parts of my good friend's life.

Thanks for being a part of this, Dan.

I always held my family close. Closer than anything in my life. Even while my two siblings and I were growing and figuring ourselves out, and while my parents’ generation seemed set in their ways, despite their ways. But it was not until after my daughter was born that I truly discovered what family was.

During my life I have gathered a few people around me that I consider family, so the definition is a bit nuanced. But now, it seems clearer who my family is, that it can be more than blood, while blood is still a stronger bond than most other social connections.

I have discovered love, loyalty, dedication, sacrifice, humility, understanding, and patience. Family, more than ever, has become not quite a shield, but somewhat of a fortress.

Family is everything.

It is something you build upon, build with, and build for. Those close to me, really close to me, have become more so. And I am thankful every day.

What I have discovered is that it is not so much that we are perfect, while striving for it, but that we are trying and aiming for that lofty goal.

Family, I have discovered, is trying.

In a lot of senses. Conflict, clashes, opinions, decisions, etc…

What bonds a family is the unfaultering ability to look past anything and stand with someone. Weaknesses, errors, foibles, all can be forgiven.

Family is Love.

But love is not always easy. Same with family. While some of the most passionate, ugly or deeply hurtful fights are with family, the uncanny ability to overcome difficulty between people can be found within family.

And they are the ones that really understand us. And can forgive us. And, hopefully, can be forgiven.

What I have been facing, with the birth of my beautiful daughter, is that I need not only to better myself, which is always something I strive for, but prepare myself for a person who could question everything I say and do, be different from what I expect, or even go beyond my expectations, highlighting my shortcomings.

Kind of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, potentially.

But I have found out I am not alone. I have a wonderful family, starting with the mother of my child, who is patient and supportive beyond all belief. My parents have been nothing short of spectacular. And my brother and sister. They amaze me, constantly.

It goes beyond that. Relatives and closest associates, though few, have surpassed my expectations, and I have discovered that I was not wrong in considering some born outside of my family tree to be considered as close as such.

As a father I have discovered that love is a silly word, but a deeply moving, and noble concept, the act of which makes life better. Trust and loyalty, as in eras past, are more valuable than any amount of money; and patience is the primary hobby any person should practice.

Family keeps going. While it was always there, like a house, you build upon it, but hopefully never forget that it all depends upon a solid foundation.

Follow Daniel Plouffe on Twitter.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Laughing It Up

Last Saturday, Ewa hit another one of the many milestones that are achieved while growing up. This one was probably my favourite thus far; laughing. At just over 3 months old she surprised me with the heartiest of laughs at the strangest of times.

After a wonderful day of exercise and outdoor activity at Bruce's Mill Conservation Area—where I happily ate the biggest homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie I've ever seen and drank syrup like water—Ewa and I found ourselves comfortably lying on the couch at home.

I'd talk, she'd smile, she'd squawk, and then cry a little; demanding I put her into a sitting position so that she could see all but 180 degrees of the same living room she's been observing for the past 3 months. Nonetheless, dady's little girl got what she wanted.

We were enjoying ourselves. Content with the way things were going and happy to be at home just hanging out. My neck was getting tired from the position I was in on the couch so I put my head back and rested it softly on the pillow that lay behind me. A second or two later, as I lifted my head back up to see what Ewa was up to and what she might be observing, I startled her slightly and triggered what would be one of the happiest moments we've shared to date; a laugh.

Fortunately, Basia and my iPhone were nearby. Both were ready to capture one of the happiest times…of my life at least. Here's what it was like:

It's been about a week now and I still haven't been able to get her to laugh like that again. I tried the same technique in a variety of ways, but I guess she just doesn't find it as funny as she did that day. Maybe it's because she's getting older? Maybe it's because she hasn't been in as good a mood? Who knows. I'm just looking forward to the next time she surprises me with another glimpse of her beautiful personality.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Better Late Than Never

Okay, so I've been slacking hardcore. I haven't posted a blog entry since January 9th. I bet a few of you didn't even notice and a few others prob thought I was gone for good. Despite what anyone thought, I'm back, so let's get down to business.

Over the last 2 months (roughly) my little girl has grown like a weed. So much in fact that people have started calling her a chunky monkey! I have no problem with that as I've the belief that a chunky baby is a healthy baby (at least that's what my wife's convinced me to think). On top of that, she hasn't started crawling just yet, and when she does, that baby fat will disappear like the diaper rash that I eradicated last week.

If you haven't checked my previous blog entries, it might interest you to know that Ewa (sounds like Eva - Polish spelling) is now just over 2 months old. She is way more active and way more fun to play with.

At this point she can roll around a bit, smile, coo, and generally interacts with people a whole lot more than she did a couple of weeks ago. She has become quite the social butterfly, often spending long periods of time talking to what my wife calls her "friends"; in this case the hanging stuffed animals over her swing.

A couple of times a week, when she's unsettled and mom just needs a break, I take out my guitar and play for her while she sits in her swing. To my amazement, the first time I did this she started trying to sing along! I can't tell you how happy I was at that moment. Since then, I've been playing to her regularly. She continues to surprise me with new sounds almost every time.

So you see, Ewa's personality is shining through a little more each day. She has now figured out that there are plenty of things going on around her that don't involve mom and dad. This has led to a series of interesting reactions on her part. Stubbornness has started to show. She'll occasionally ignore me when I look at her, looking away if I catch her glance. It's pretty hilarious.

She's also quite the charmer in other respects; fearless when it comes to hanging out with strangers and people she's not familiar with. This, in my opinion, is a good thing. She's becoming more and more independent every day.

What's it been like so far? Well I can tell you, it's been all sunshine and roses! I have to give credit to Ewa's mother who has spent many waking nights soothing her as I sleep (or try to) in anticipation of the next work day. Furthermore, her caring mother takes great pride in the time they spend together, which in itself keeps Ewa content and is an invaluable part of her development.

At the end of each day I come home to my family, happily knowing that all is well and life is grand. If you're still uncertain about having children, I would urge you to think again. It's better than any career opportunity you're working toward. It's the opportunity to see life at it's most precious state, and you have full control over much of the outcome. Don't get me wrong, parenting has its difficulties but those difficulties seem to be forgotten with but a smile or a coo from the little girl or boy you will patiently bring into this world.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sleepless In Toronto

I'm sure you've all heard the stories about babies keeping you up all night. Well my baby girl has been far from trouble on this front...until two days ago. I'm not sure what sparked the all night marathon, but it wasn't pleasant and it put me in a foul mood the next day.

I received a text from my friend Dan on that fateful night, when reality and truth came raining down on me. Dan just had a baby girl on January 2nd 2011 (Congratulations Dan and Claudie!) and had written the text to me in sleepless desperation because since birth, his little girl has been routinely waking him up every 2 to 3 hours.

He wrote, "Have you been going delirious from lack of sleep yet? Or did you work through it. I found a new shade of purple under my eyes."

To which I replied, "Dude, I've been blessed. She sleeps for about 4 hours between feeding and then goes back to sleep. Some nights are worse than others..."

Now, I can honestly say I ate my words that night, for I received no more than 1 straight hour of sleep until 6am the next morning. It was hard, it was frustrating, and worst of all, it was sleepless.

So Dan, if you're reading this entry, I'll have you know that you're not alone. And although I'm blessed, I can no longer say it is due to any kind of beautiful sleep pattern that my baby has maintained. Sleep is wonderful, but at this point in time, it only occurs in bunches of 3 to 4 hours at best. If you'll notice the date stamp on this post and the picture I posted, you'll see that I wrote this entry way before any babyless person would write a blog entry on a Sunday morning. My head is aching and my eyes are bloodshot.

In conclusion, I'd like to add that despite having slept less than a few hours last night, and the night before, and the night before that, the ruthlessness of it all does come with some benefits...

Having a baby cry and fuss and then cry again is heartbreaking. It's especially heartbreaking when it's 2am and you know how crappy you're going to feel the next day if you don't get the baby to sleep so that you, in turn, can fall asleep.

This is where some of the benefits comes in. Still to this day I can't remember anything much more rewarding than having my crying baby girl curl up on my chest like a cute little bug and slowly quiet down until her whimpers are nothing more than soft breaths complimented by a sleepy stretch and a sigh of relief before she falls asleep.

It's very rewarding to have someone depend on you for comfort, warmth, love, and safety, and to then have the ability to provide all those things to her in matter of minutes and see that what you've been working for and losing sleep over has all come together to give you this one sleepy little babe on your chest. It's amazing, it's unlike anything else, and it makes all my sleepless nights in Toronto seem oh so worth it.

Good luck to all those out there who are kept awake by your crying babies...and remember not to miss out on the little rewards that come with having a baby wake you up in the night looking for comfort, food, and a little love.