Two babies is a subject that's near and dear to acitymom's heart. While today's guest blogger, ChicagoNow's John Chatz of It's Never Just Black and White isn't talking about twins, his story of his two babies is sure to melt your heart. (I haven't read it through once without getting all verklempt!) Enjoy! (and keep the tissues handy)
Raising kids is not something unusual or unique. Anyone reading this has probably done it or is doing it now. The uniqueness comes in what we put into it and what we get out of it. As a father of five, I have been a good father at times, and at other times I know I’ve let my kids down and let myself down. But, this is not a "please feel sorry for me" story or a way that I can place more self-loathing or guilt upon myself.
Rather, it is a way to describe what I feel is the uniqueness of my situation and try to come to grips with a range of emotions that borders on the overwhelming.
On February 1, 2012, my wife and I had a baby, our first (and, primarily due to my age and creeping fatigue, our last). Sasha Petaja Chatz weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and was as healthy and beautiful as can be. Everyone loves babies – the grandparents on both sides went nuts, visiting the hospital, buying clothes, diapers, wipes, etc., and taking pictures galore.
We were married in July 2010, the second time around for both or us. She has two sons – 18 and 14 while I have four kids – three boys ages 26, 21, and 18 and one daughter age 23. So, yes, I am an older parent although I have stopped saying just how old I may be.
So, as I sat looking at Sasha sleeping recently, I began to think about the fact that I have one baby, Jesse, the 18 year-old, who is graduating high school and getting ready to leave home for college while I have another baby who is just settling in for the long haul. Surely this is not as unique a situation as I may believe, but it has inspired fertile ground for dichotomies of all kinds.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, I spent a weekend morning marveling at how “smart” Sasha is because she looks at people when they speak to her and seems to be so aware of her surroundings at only three months. Later that day, I drove to my parents’ condo in Evanston to help Jesse write the graduation speech he has been asked to make for the Commencement ceremony at Evanston Township High School this June. (I’m feeling the emotions as Jesse’s father, but also as graduate of ETHS myself as are his three older siblings.) It’s quite an honor, I tell him. I know, he says. Are you nervous, I ask. Not yet, he answers. Sometimes non-verbal communication with a 3 month-old provides more information than you get from the verbal variety when trying to speak to an 18 year-old.
Over the recent “NATO” weekend in Chicago, the weather was perfect on that Saturday so I started the day by taking baby Sasha for a walk in our south side Beverly neighborhood to the corner Starbucks. As Sasha’s self-proclaimed personal chronicler, I find myself taking photos of her at just about every event or non-event and Saturday’s stroller walk to Starbucks was no exception.
One baby on a Saturday stroll
She seems to enjoy being outside and doesn’t seem to mind me shoving the iPhone in her face every chance I get.
That day's afternoon activity involved an additional, yet quite different photo assignment. I once again headed up to Evanston and my parents’ condo, this time to visit with them before heading to a mansion on Sheridan Road to take pictures as Jesse prepared to go to his Prom.
While the two photo sessions may not represent a true dichotomy, as a walk in the neighborhood is not a rite of passage in the way one’s high school prom is, I was feeling like a voyeur as I began photographing young men in tuxedos and young women in ball gowns having just left a baby lying in a crib dressed in a jumper and a diaper.
Of course, before I left my parents’ to take the pictures, my mother pulled out old photos of my kids that she had found while packing up some boxes. A word to the wise: If you want to keep from shedding man tears, don’t look at pictures of your grown or mostly-grown kids while you are already feeling vulnerable and about to take prom photos. The waves of emotion washed over me like rain while I looked at the pictures and then I had to go feel it in person.
Another baby on a Saturday
It was crazy to look at Jesse, all suited up in a tux, arm in arm posing for photographs with his date and later with his buddies and smiling with girls he has known since kindergarten. This little baby ain’t so little any more.
This is all quite ironic since only a couple of weeks earlier I had watched Jesse and his oldest brother Peter fawn over the baby who had traveled out to Evanston with me to see her brothers and grandparents. These two young men had, only months earlier, given me quite an earful about how irresponsible I was for having a baby at my age. Yes, it hurt me, but looking at the big and reasonable picture, I was able to understand where they were coming from while not necessarily agreeing and trying not to antagonize an already delicate situation.
As I stood at this beautiful prom home with a perfect vista overlooking Lake Michigan (in a modern-day Sunday in the Park with George mode), tears admittedly welling up in my eyes (usually only acknowledged when watching a sports movie like Remember the Titans), I thought about what a fine young man Jesse has become. I thought that this can happen despite being from a “broken home” and despite obstacles being placed in his path. Obstacles that were sometimes amplified by the very adults who were supposed to reduce them. Hey, I’m guilty of that, I’ll admit it, but I have no choice but to live and learn from those days.
Here’s a kid who, as an 8th grader, broke down in tears on a Friday night when I asked him why he doesn’t hang out with kids his own age and, instead, he was hanging out with me all the time. (Someone should have slapped me in the face for that comment.) And now, he stood on prom night with peers crowding around him so much that I could barely get a photo, much less a word in edgewise.
I got him to break away for a minute so I could say good-bye and start making my 45-minute drive back to the south side. “Have a great time,” I said, “and stay out of trouble.” We hugged and I was gone.
I needed every one of those 45 minutes to pull myself back together. And then, as I walked in the door of my house, my wife and one of my babies were there. Sasha looked at me with her blue-grey eyes (where those came from I have no idea) as if to ask, “How did my brother Jesse look?” While my wife asked me “How did it go?” “He looked handsome and it went very well,” I told them.
Two babies indeed.
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