A MOTHER AND SON REFLECT ON FATHERS AND SONS
Grandma Ellen's Thoughts on Her Son
have two children -- a daughter and a son. All during my first pregnancy, I hoped beyond hope that I would have a girl. I don't remember now why I so wanted a baby girl. All I know is that it was a tangible yearning. And my husband and I were indeed blessed with a darling daughter. It was a good thing that she was darling (in the physical sense of the word) because Laura was a difficult newborn -- a challenge to her father and me. I carry with me to this day an image of my husband, then a medical student, literally banging his head against the wall in frustration after an hour's baby-sitting stint one afternoon.
So when I became pregnant again, I was a nervous wreck -- there just is no other term for the way I felt -- thinking that I was now going to have two difficult children to care for -- a two-year-old and a newborn. To top it off, my husband was an intern at Boston City Hospital, and HE WAS NEVER HOME! Well, what a surprise when the new baby turned out to be a bouncing baby boy who only slept and ate!! In fact, he slept so much of the day that I finally called the pediatrician and told him that I thought something was the matter with the baby. "That is what a newborn is supposed to do", he assured me. "Ah, well", I said. "This is a new experience for me".
My son, Marc, grew into babyhood and then boyhood as a model child. When he was seven months old, I could sit him down with some toys in our gated yard, and he would play there content for half an hour without a peep. He never went through the 'Terrible Two's', was sweet and good-natured, and generally gave us little trouble.
Marc had one pronounced personality quirk, however. He would never tell us if something was bothering him. The only way I knew that he was upset was when he came home from school, sat down in the blue velvet chair in the living room, and remained there not talking or smiling. My attempts to get him to share his troubles were never successful. Frustrating for a parent, and difficult for the child.
As Marc grew into adulthood, he became known as a man who kept his own counsel. To this day, he is known as a man of few words in his wife's family. So it gives me great pleasure, now, to have him share his thoughts with IFMAG readers on being a father and a son.
A Son’s Reflections on FatherhoodBy Marc Blaustein
here are few events in life that are defining. Becoming a father is definitely one of them. Fortunately, you have nine months to adjust to the concept. I watched in wonder and fear as my wife’s belly grew. The path we were headed down became even more real when the ultrasound technician showed us our baby’s beating heart and handed us the grainy ultrasound photos. And then, before I knew it, I was a father. My first thought upon arriving home with my wife and our new daughter was, “We’ve wanted this for so long—now what do we do?” Fortunately, we had lots of help, not least from our daughter’s new grandparents.
My mom, whose first grandchild was my daughter and who now chooses to call her column for this magazine “Grandma Ellen,” had expressed great ambivalence about becoming a grandmother. Her reservations faded away, however, once she held her new granddaughter. Of course, her grandchildren do call her “Grammy” in part because she still doesn’t relish being called “Grandma.”
But what surprised me most about my parents’ first visit following my daughter’s arrival was my dad. “Gramps” was, and for 11 years now has continued to be, a tireless and selfless grandfather. My dad worked very long hours and did much travel when my sister and I were children. Much of the parenting was left to mom, and I’ve always believed that dad decided he was going to experience some of what he missed with his own children through his grandchildren. He’s doing a great job.
My son’s arrival, two years after my daughter’s birth, brought another much needed visit from mom and dad. We thought we had been busy with one child, but now there really was no rest for the weary. My parents helped us adjust to this new and at first unsettling phase of our lives.
I find that my bond with my son is different, but neither closer nor more distant, than that with my daughter. My relationship with each child is a reflection of who each of us is rather than whether we share a common gender. I love them both deeply and one of my proudest accomplishments as a father is that I have learned to appreciate each of them for who and what they are rather than what I wished they would be.
I find fatherhood to be both a humbling and a rewarding experience. One thing I didn’t anticipate was the powerful lens for self-examination that being a father provides. There is nothing in life as humbling as seeing your child’s (usually my daughter’s, but occasionally my son’s) innocent face looking up and asking me why my actions aren’t matching the verbal lesson I imparted the previous week. And there is nothing as frustrating as seeing your own weaknesses given new and vibrant life in your child. My children are constant sources of feedback on how well I model desired behaviors and attitudes since they reflect them right back at me. In my wiser moments, I try to find an opportunity to address my own shortcomings and hopefully help my children do the same with theirs.
The rewards and joys of fatherhood, however, far outweigh the frustrations. As a life insurance company once pointed out in one of their TV ads, after you have a child you’ll never again be the most important person in your own life. This new perspective, of viewing the world through a perspective beyond my own, has been a great gift to me.
Many of the joys of fatherhood are more immediate and tangible. Seeing the pleasure of comprehension as my son or daughter understands what had previously been cloaked in mystery or their pride of accomplishment as they master a new skill is priceless—but a frequent occurrence. They absorb, learn and integrate at a remarkable pace. When they’re very young, they seem to be different people from one week to the next.
Another unexpected benefit of fatherhood is what it has taught me about being a son. I always took for granted that my own father would make sacrifices for me. I now know that doing so is a conscious and selfless choice. Where I always had less tolerance for my own father’s foibles than for those of others, I now try consciously to have more. This effort remains a work in progress, but my own children are a constant reminder of its importance.
My wife and I embarked on the journey of parenthood with great anticipation and some trepidation. It has been more rewarding and challenging than I ever thought possible. And our children aren’t even teenagers yet!