My last night with our baby  

Tonight as I tucked you in, I knew that this was going to be the last time I would kiss a sleepy infant good-night. Tomorrow night I will sing “Goodnight Willow” to a toddler.  I shed a tear, not out some imagined grief over “losing my little baby”, but out of sheer wonder, amazement, and gratitude. How did we get so lucky? How did we get this far?

The past twelve months have been filled with incredibly powerful and overwhelming moments of physical, spiritual, and intellectual growth. You have changed the world with your presence, little miracle. You brought hope and light with your ability to not only survive but thrive in difficult conditions, from the very moment you decided to stick. You earned your name before you were even born. You have challenged, taught, and loved us with your whole being. Life on this planet will never be the same. 
Daddy and I started to dream, think and talk about you in 2001. In 2008, we received the blessing of mommy’s family physician and specialists, a Cuban official, and Rev. Dr. (Great Uncle) Julius to try to bring you into this world. On the first day of Spring in 2014, you arrived in the wee hours of the morning, to the sound of your new mother laughing and singing with tears streaming down her face. Years of dreaming, praying and loving you into existence. You were finally here, and for that moment all was right in the world. 
You took away the empty arms and the aching hearts. You replaced them with a whole new set of challenges. Challenges that we were ready, willing, and grateful to face because we had been so well-prepared and had waited so very long to finally meet you. 

Every day I find so many reasons to celebrate your life, and our life as a family. I see you and Daddy building block towers and playing with cars on the living room carpet and my heart melts to see the amazing father and person he has become because of you. I watch you shake in anticipation as you reach for a tambourine and feel the goosebumps rising on my own arms. I smile as you stare in wide-eyed wonder at the fish in the aquarium, laughing gleefully with you when Sparkles comes to kiss your fingers through the glass. I marvel at your budding sense of humour as you pretend that a bib is a hat. I admire your determination and ability to figure out baby gates, doors, drawers, and how to get around anything that might be standing in the way of chasing a kitten. I love how you spontaneously break into dance when you hear music or rhythmic clapping, how your face lights up when we sing the toothbrush song at the table, how you turn the pages of a book and stare intently at each page, how you thoughtfully choose and then tap the pair of socks you want to wear. I love that you feel your feelings so intensely and can cry and laugh with equal amounts of passion. I love how you love with abandon, with every fibre of your being, delivering full-body hugs and open-mouthed kisses to the cheek. I love how you constantly pull me out of my thinking brain and into my body, into the present moment with you. I love who you have made me become and how you have made me see the world so clearly. I love being your mommy. 
You may never fully understand how truly loved and wanted you were and are. God willing, we will both live long enough for you to roll your teenaged eyes at me while I remind you of this fact with absolute conviction, and to smile wearily down at me when we are both in the Silver Fox Club and I continue to tell you how truly wanted and loved you were and are. 
You will always be MB in my heart, our little miracle baby who finally found her way into our loving arms.  You will always be cherished for the unique and beautiful human being that you are and will become. You will, without a doubt, continue to be my greatest teacher and the person who challenges me to grow more than I could ever dream possible. 
Thank you for choosing us to be your “Mama and Dada” and for being patient with us as we stumble along and grow into the best people, partners and parents we can be. Thank you for coming at just the right time, even if we didn’t realize it as we waited for you. Thank you for teaching us about strength, determination, faith, hope, patience, forgiveness, healing, and love.
 I cherish you. 
Happy birthday, my sweet baboo.

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Daddy Bashing

There is no shortage of memes out there depicting fathers as “another child in the house” or otherwise implying that men are essentially incapable of adequately caring for themselves or their offspring. Bashing men via social media is a very popular pastime, and bashing fathers is a big part of that. I’m sure you’ve seen one of the many daddy-bashing visuals circulating the internet. They are sent via email to colleagues, favourited on Twitter, liked on Facebook, commented on with “LOL”… and otherwise shared, tolerated and encouraged.

All too often I have heard groups of women in various social and workplace settings trash-talking their male parenting partners, referring to them as “babies” and complaining about men’s alleged inability to parent:

“Josh doesn’t know how to put Ali’s diapers on. She always ends up peeing herself. He has two University degrees and can’t figure out how to put a diaper on securely. It’s just easier for me to do it myself.”

“Mo dressed Mahmoud today, as you can see by the mismatched top and bottom. I can never let him dress the kids if we are going any place nice. They look like urchins when he dresses them.”

“Kai never puts a sweater or a hat on the baby. It’s like he doesn’t even notice her shivering in the cold.”

“When I go away for training and Raj babysits they end up eating pizza pockets and chips the whole weekend.”

“I can’t even tell the twins have been bathed when Seth does bath time. They still have dirt in the creases of their legs and arms. Seriously… Other than the wet hair I wouldn’t know that they had touched the water.”

“I have TWO babies to take care of now.”

“I always tell my husband: If at first you don’t succeed do it the way mommy told you to do it in the first place.”

First of all, are these women really such poor decision makers that they actually chose to live with and raise children with incompetent humans? Are they exaggerating to get pity or to elicit a laugh at their partner’s expense? Are they hoping to get a badge for their mommy martyrdom? Or are they possibly control freaks and perfectionists who, instead of working on their need to control people and situations, are focusing on and mocking their partner’s inability to live up to impossibly high standards?

I am not talking about women whose husbands refuse to change a diaper or to be involved in a child’s life in any significant way. There are men in this world who are, indeed, “deadbeat dads”. No, I’m speaking of women whose partners are trying their best to parent with whatever experience and confidence they have. Women who are (unconsciously) working toward further degrading the already low opinion that our society has of the capacity of men to be good partners and parents, and fuelling other women’s distrust of their own partners as parents.

Do we, as a society, want men to be involved in their children’s lives and in the day to day care of their children? Then why do we collectively put them down when they try their best to be good partners and parents? Why do we post cruel “jokes” on social media sites which depict fathers as incompetent fools? Why do some people still refer to daddy-child time as “babysitting”?!?

Are most mothers controlling by nature? I recognize that I have to fight my own inner control freak frequently on this journey of parenthood, from trying to hide my look of horror when someone suggests I put my child with no neck control in a high chair, to wanting to whisk my baby out of the baby blanket class at the Early Years Centre immediately when I see another mom in the room coughing or sneezing, to wanting to physically remove an inquisitive and grubby toddler’s hand from my daughter’s face. I know that one of the life lessons Willow is teaching me is about giving up control.

My husband doesn’t put diapers on the same way that I do. Our daughter is no worse off for it. He carries her differently. He cuddles her differently. He soothes her differently. He plays with her differently. His way is not wrong. It is Daddy’s way, and Willow seems to be cool with it… So why should I take issue with it?

I am not a visual person. When I dress my daughter she usually doesn’t “match” unless an entire outfit (including socks) was preselected and given to me. We often joke that Willow is a “fashion nightmare” when I dress her. I also have huge spatial sense issues. Despite being placed in “gifted” programs in school, I am utterly incompetent and frustrated when I try to put on a Baby Bjorn without my husband’s assistance. My parenting partner had to show me how to get the baby in the car seat and how to put the car seat in the car. He had to show me how to use the stroller, the baby swing, the breast pump, bottles, formula, and how to do up the snaps on various Jammies and sleepers. I still have no idea how the batteries magically fit inside the baby bouncer chair. Without my husband Willow would be naked, starving, bored, and unable to leave the house. And yet… my husband doesn’t post disparaging comments or pictures on Facebook to get a laugh from family and friends. He doesn’t tell all of his workmates how incompetent of a mother I am and how much of a martyr he is for “taking care of a baby AND a wife.”

Willow has a pretty awesome Daddy. He is learning how to be a parent, just as I am. He has strengths and weaknesses, just as I do. He is not perfect, and neither am I. There is nobody else on this planet I would rather have as my parenting partner, and I am so glad that he is thriving and growing in his confidence as a father despite the negative messages fathers receive in our culture.

Involved and loving Daddies of the world, thank you for doing things “your way”, even when you are told it is not the “right way”. Thank you for loving your children in the way that only a Daddy can, and for doing all of the thankless everyday jobs that we so often forget to notice. Thanks for taking things in stride when your partner is repeatedly praised by society for her hard work as a parent and you are often left out or ridiculed. An involved and loving Daddy is a gift to a child that leaves a lasting imprint on both the child and the human race. Thank you for making our kids and our world kinder, gentler, and full of love.

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