Have a great Thanksgiving, everybody!
This is for all the co-parents out there...
There are a lot of things to be thankful for tomorrow. But there is just one person actually whom I want to thank above all: that's right, she's the one raising three very young children with me.
Watching a mom in action creates a state of awe.
Tomorrow she'll be preparing the big bird and other items for the dinner.
The next day she'll be preparing a thousand other items:
three meals for our family (not all leftovers, though I'm sure turkey will make an appearance);
clean clothes for everybody;
a new stash of diapers and wipes and spoons and bibs and back-up clothes for the baby bag;
follow-up calls for our weekend plans (we're off to a wedding in the mountains);
a collection of toys and puzzles and rattles to enage the kids;
paper towels and wood-cleaning spray to wipe down the table and the floor before we leave;
directions for me to drive;
beautiful words for one of her screenplays if she gets a moment of peace in the car;
and an ever-changing array of kisses for her children... and for lucky, lucky me.
And she does all this endlessly, in a repeating loop (with slight variations according to the daily plan) from morning to night. And she does it all while participating in an ongoing, offline dialogue with me about what is best for our kids.
When I watched my wife in labor with our first child, George, at Summit Hospital in Oakland back in June of 2004, I realized that I had never seen anybody work so hard in my life.
At one point, a few hours into labor, the doctor asked me to please count from 1 to 10, so as to let Renée know how long to push during each contraction. I couldn't stand the idea of her having to push for that long -- it seemed overwhelming, crazy, impossible. So I found myself speeding up the count. As each contraction grew, what was supposed to serve as a calm and steady metronome for Renée sounded instead like a soldier freaking out with bombs dropping all around him: "1... 2... 3... 4, 5, 6, 7, 8910! 10!"
After a few times of this, Renée somehow found the energy, between contractions, to insist that... perhaps someone else should count. I think it went something like this: "Someone else count!" But really in the nicest way, with no recrimination, not even regret for what had past.
Relieved, I went back to my job of saying encouraging things and holding her hand.
When George finally arrived, she willed herself to be present fully, despite the exhaution and the drugs and the surgery (she ended up having to have Ceasareans with all three of our children, after long labors with each).
Not only have I never seen anybody work so hard, but I have never seen anyone want anything as badly as Renée wanted to hold her babies to her breast after childbirth. It was animal, every time.
And she's been the same with each of our children -- Cole, who arrived in October of 2005, and Adeline, who arrived in April of this year. Despite unavoidable difficulties with breastfeeding, Renée perservered during each of their breastfeeding phases, with "S & S" devices (tubes which attach with tape to your nipple and deliver formula along with the limited milk the baby gets from nursing) and incredible reserves of self-possession.
Like any parent, she becomes frustrated at times, but I can tell that there is never any doubt in her mind that she will do whatever she needs to do for the benefit of her children.
The most angry she gets is when we have an argument which makes her think that I am suggesting she is doing something wrong as a mother (which I am not, but you know how it gets). On these occasions she has:
run at me, crying out, "I hate you," and sunk her teeth into my waist;
shattered a lightbulb and put a deep dent into our living room floor by picking up a lamp and slamming it down; and, most impressively,
stood up to me in my most angry mode (usually involving a pointed finger and wildly proliferating accusations of injustice), and faced me down.
You sense in those times that you are confronting something at the core of her being, something which is indomitable: the force of a mother.
In all of the sleep-deprived anguish of some of our hardest days over the past three and half years, Renée has never made me feel anything but supported as a father.
I demand a lot. I always seem to have needs of one kind or another. And though sometimes I cannot be accomodated in all of my moods and opinions and questions and concerns in that exact moment in which I feel they must be addressed, I always know that she will get to them in time. She will hear me out. She will respond with kindness and love. Her example encourages me to do the same for her. It makes it easier to take my turn in being the first one to say, "I'm sorry," or "You were right."
Tomorrow on Thanksgiving, as we eat turkey and all the trimmings, I know that we will be surrounded by blessings of all kinds. I repeat: I am a lucky, lucky man. My latest streak of luck started with you, Renée, and I am aware of that always. I intend to run with it all the way.
Thank you with all of my heart.