My kids had their physicals the other day. You know, the annual once-over to be sure everything’s in working order. I knew it was, but Noah needed working papers to begin his job as a soccer referee, so off we went.
The waiting room was empty when we arrived. I’m not a huge fan of hanging out in doctors’ offices, sick as I am of dealing with the flu, so I admonished my kids to not touch a thing. If you’re a parent you know that while you can’t help but say it, doing so isn’t without risk. Because most typical kids, mine included, will thrill in doing exactly that. Touch. Everything. Which they did.
Next, my firstborn, who, at 14, has grown quite disenchanted with various aspects of the physical exam, pretended his knee was being tapped by a little reflex hammer. Which, in his imaginings, caused him to kick our dear doctor. Me, in this case, as my shin was unfortunately very near to his very real foot. By this time we had company in the waiting room, a happy young couple who, still holding hands, sat down directly opposite us below the “Pediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynecology” sign. I couldn’t help but giggle. The antics of my little crew made for a cautionary tale, to say the least.
“Oh, that’s funny,” I whispered to Holly. “Look where they’re sitting.” She quickly deduced what I had, that they’re expecting a baby. Noah, on the other hand, was too busy coping by pretending to plot how he might kick our dear doctor during his least favorite moment of his exam, to notice.
“This is what you’re gonna get,” Holly said as she gestured toward her brother, but the young couple was oblivious to our silliness, cocooned as they were in that fabulous bubble of new-baby bliss. There’s nothing quite like it. I remember that feeling, and was even inspired to write a poem about it one morning many years ago when Holly was a baby:
“Head tossed back in wild baby abandon, laughter so free.
Arms outstretched, her eyes drift closed.
Tiny baby lips fall open in an unselfconscious half-smile.
She’s as relaxed as any Zen master.
I spin and dance while she rests against my arms.
I lift her up and down, up and down.
“Mama, Mama,” she sings, willing me to keep up with her lullaby.
Silky fine wisps of platinum-blonde hair float up and down, up and down, each one like spun gold, catching the sun as it streams in through the sunroom windows, sparkling with the sticky sweetness of morning, of possibilities, of cotton candy that your tongue never quite grasps as it melts in your mouth.”
Noah turns 15 this summer and Holly turns 12 next week. It’s been over 10 years since I wrote this poem and still I recall the way the sunlight filled my little house that morning and made it glow. My heart felt like it would burst with happiness. That’s what parenthood has been like for me, at its best. I hope it’s like that for you, too, dear couple in the waiting room.
At its worst, far worse than mere silliness (or, um, bruises) suffered in waiting rooms, your heart will break and you will think you’ll never recover. And then you will. When the music changes, and it will – less lullaby, more Led Zeppelin, remember, we’re all in this together, you and I and everyone else riding this wild and wonderful rollercoaster called Parenthood.
Congratulations! But one word of advice? Wear shin guards.