I spent many years of my life working in hospitals, nursing homes, and doing home visits through Visiting Nurses. Somewhere along the line, I took notice of a simple concept that my elderly patients were imparting to me. They didn’t seem to have much regret, at the end of their lives, over the things they did, but they had tremendous regret over the things they didn’t do. They regretted not traveling more, not getting a degree, not moving away to a more hospitable climate, not having more kids. They rarely regretted the things that they HAD done, even if those things had turned out “poorly.” They saw less than perfect results as a learning experience, something that had grown their character or skill level.
I have always tried to be a “maybe/yes” person, versus an automatic “no” person. “No” stops everything in its tracks. No forward movement.
I had become friends with a family via one of my sons, and over the past two years we have become pretty close. I got a text from the mom one day in May, and she was literally over the edge. Instead of texting back, I called, and sure enough, she was in tears. There were a dozen issues, including financial. When she got through with the story of what had finally sent this strong woman over the edge, I said, “I hear you. You have a bunch of problems, and no easy solutions. However, it seems to me that the most pressing problem is that you don’t have childcare for your five-month-old grandbaby tomorrow.” She said, “I don’t! It’s too late to sign up for daycare, the one who normally watches him can’t, I can’t afford to take a day off…” So, my mouth said, before my brain thought it through, “I’m working from home tomorrow, and I don’t have any appointments. I’ll take him.” “OMG! Would you?” “Yes, I’ll take Baby B.”
At 11 PM, I’m lying in bed, wide awake having the following conversation with myself: “Have you lost your mind? What were you thinking? You haven’t been responsible for a baby all day for thirteen years. You don’t have a THING in this house for a baby. No crib, playpen, high chair, not even a toy!!!! How are you going to manage the two big dogs, and a baby? What if he cries all day?” Ugh.
5:30 AM, I’m up. Snorting coffee like an addict. Gotta get a shower, get dressed, get Eli to school, take the dogs out, twice (God forbid they would pee and poo same trip), put dog food and water in bedroom, lock up dogs.
7:30 AM, I’m standing in the driveway, waiting for a baby delivery. I’m a nervous wreck. I had stopped by their house twice in the past five months, and held him twice. He didn’t know me from Adam.
9:30 AM…. I am on the couch with Baby B. in my arms, nearly high with happiness. The shampoo smell. The way he fits perfectly in the crook of my arm. The fact that he is content to watch the ceiling fan, play with his toes, stare into my eyes. I give him a bottle, he drifts off to sleepy town, and I could put him on a blanket on the floor to sleep, but I don’t, because holding him while he sleeps is the nicest thing I’ve done in months.
6:30 PM. I’ve had this baby for eleven hours. It’s been a long day for me, but I’m betting longer for Grandma, who probably worried all day. She texted me from work that she was on her way, so I packed his diaper bag, gave him a clean diaper and a fresh bottle, and put him in his car seat. We met her in the driveway, where she popped out of the car like a jack-in-the-box. I didn’t realize it then, but as the day wore on, she was concerned that she had over-stepped our friendship. She thought I would never want him again, and wouldn’t be her friend anymore.
“We had a wonderful day!” I said. “You did? He wasn’t too much?” “Are you kidding? He is the easiest baby I’ve ever watched. What a sweetheart.” I watched the tension leave her body…as her shoulders relaxed, as she gave me a real smile, as she breathed. “So, what happens tomorrow?” I asked. “Nothing has changed. I have to go home and call around and see if anyone will take him.” “Well then, I guess you ought to just bring him here,” I said.
And that, dear readers, is how I offered one time to watch a friends’ infant grandchild in May, and now, at the end of August, have had this child on average of three days a week for 3.5 months. That is how I acquired a blue Rubbermaid tub of toys, a Pack n Play, a walker, a Bumbo seat, and a stroller.
On that first day, Eli (my 14-year-old) came home from school. I told him that he needed to hold the baby, because the dogs needed to go out. He opted to take the dogs out. I then forced him to hold the baby so that I could use the bathroom. He was not happy. He didn’t like babies, had never held one. Five minutes later, he wanted to continue holding him while I started dinner. Three months later, I can leave Baby B. with Eli for an hour while I shower, take a phone call, answer email. I have the most beautiful pictures of Eli and Baby B. asleep on the couch, Baby B. asleep on Eli’s chest.
My oldest, Noah, was home for the summer, and basically worked three jobs. He would come home tired, sweaty, smelling like a goat, covered with grass or paint, and the first thing he would do was pick up Baby B. Get a baby fix.
When I first got Baby B., I was terrified to put him in the car. Three months later, this little squirt has gone everywhere with me. The hairdresser, the nail salon, Home Depot for hours, Grove City outlets, to Eli’s 9th grade orientation, the office. I take him everywhere.
Since Baby B. has come into my life, I get up earlier. I go to bed earlier. My insomnia is nearly gone. I have never been a morning person, and never will be, but there has never been a morning that I regretted getting up to accept that smiling face into my home.
As my summer turned chaotic, as I bought a house in the country, and moved, and had contractors in my home daily, and had medical tests, while my dad slowly died… a few of my long-term friends who always look out for me suggested that I give up Baby B. They thought it was too much. I had to explain that if anything were to “go,” it would not be Baby B. He was my happy place. He was my reason for getting up. He was my belly laugh of the day.
I worked full-time and ran a candle party business when my boys were little, and then opened my own business, saw clients and taught at CUP. I was a busy, busy mommy, who loved her boys, but they spent a lot of time in daycare or with sitters.
Noah is now a sophomore in college, with two 4.0’s under his belt, carving up cadavers this year. He’s fine. He’s good. He calls his mama twice a week and talks for an hour or more.
Eli is going into 9th grade. He’s a musician, and an Honor’s Student, and can handle a baby.
It is what it is. I wish I could have held my babies more. I wish I was home more. I wish….
Just when I thought I had missed out…I have had a baby come into my life. When I got him, he had rolled over once or twice, now he can roll across the room. When I got him, he drank bottles, now I feed him papaya. When I got him, he couldn’t sit up by himself. Now he can.
I missed out on watching some of my own children’s development. I’m getting an opportunity to do that now, while my kids participate. I am so blessed.
It would have been so easy to tell my friend that I was praying for her, sending her good vibes and good juju. It takes real heart to offer a solution…money, child care, a ride. My “advice” to you today is to not be afraid to say yes, to go ahead and take the risk, to help someone out just because you can. The rewards are often so much bigger than the regrets!