You may remember that on the night prior to our grandson Owen’s birth, Hannah fractured her tibia while water skiing. She wiped out on a Sunday evening and before dawn on that following Monday morning, Owen came squealing into the world. You see by Thursday we were supposed to be driving from our home in Maine to Virginia 500+ miles away to see him and tend to his parents. Alas, that very Thursday Hannah had successful surgery for a fractured left tibia. On crutches ever since, Hannah’s rehab progressed to the point that two and a half weeks later, she felt fit to travel.
Typically Hannah and I share the driving. I love riding shotgun so I can nod off, write in my journal, read, and basically just not have to pay attention as I do when I drive. With Hannah’s fractured tibia, this drive south will have me soloing for ten hours through the Northeast corridor to Virginia. Leaving early on a Monday morning, it’s truly a labor of love with Molly, Tip, and Owen as our destination.
After an overnight in southern Jersey with old friends Rich and Mary, we arrive by noon on Tuesday in Arlington, VA. It’s a cliché that grandchildren melt their grandparents, but like many clichés, this one is so true for us. We soon learn that Owen is all the things that every newborn baby is: beautiful, cute, lovable, and huggable. The best thing Owen has going for him start with an M and a T. Molly and Tip.
Being first time grandparents, Hannah and I need grandparent names. Hannah chooses Omi (pronounced Oh-me), which is a combination of Momey (pronounced Moe-me) who was Hannah’s grandmother and Oma which is what our kids called her Mom. I consider Opi to have the symmetry with Omi, but very quickly ditch it because it sounds too much like five year old Opie Taylor of the old Andy Griffith Show. Then it is off to the internet. I find scores of traditional and trendy names for a grandfather. I decide not to go with G-Daddy or Grandoody or Ace but Papa. Papa just feels right. Fact is, after much searching for an Appalachian Trail name, I am choosing Papa.
Coming to help Molly and Tip means coming to help Molly and Tip; not giving them any well-intentioned advice. Parenting, and especially first time parenting, is challenging enough without new parents having to have their decisions scrutinized by well meaning, but clueless grandparents. Fact is, any advice will lie on the cutting room floor if the intended audience is not ready for it.
Need the dishes washed each morning? I am your man.
Need some curtains for the Owen’s room? Hannah’s your woman. Despite hobbling on crutches, she brings her sewing machine south to work her drapery magic.
Need to have us shop at the local Giant grocery store for the evening meal or treat them to paninis for dinner? We two couldn’t be happier to do that.
Need someone to push the stroller with Owen who is alternating between crying and napping while Hannah and Molly shop at Jo Ann’s Fabric and Crafts for curtain material? I am ready, willing, and mostly able.
Need a dog walker for Chessie, their Rhodesian ridgeback? Summer in humid Virginia is no match for my willingness to help where help is needed.
Hannah and I only have this four day window with these three to carry us for the next six weeks.
Need a nap? Molly, take a few hours in your bedroom and we’ll deal with any of Owen’s fussing. Rarely do expecting parents fully gather the meaning of the words “baby tired.” It seems the only way to replicate the experience of living with a newborn is to set an alarm for every two hours throughout the night, stay awake for 45 minutes of those two hours, as well as pipe in baby crying noises now and again. And do this for the next month.
Our plan is to spend each day from nine in the morning til eight at night helping Molly with Owen while Tip brings home some of the bacon at his job for the State Department in Washington, DC. In October Molly returns to her position as an elementary math coach in Annandale, VA. After our day on baby patrol, we head each night to the house of another old friend Amelia, who welcomes us for a night of slumber. Breakfast with her each morning sets us up for an Owen day.
Crying! Let’s get real about the reality of babies and crying. Do they ever cry! It’s how they communicate and often crying fills Molly and Tip’s apartment. Despite all the smiling pictures, Owen knows when to establish that he wants to be fed or changed or just assert his primacy in the Rawding household.
Our recollection of our firstborn’s (Molly) crying is that she never slept through the night for the first four years of her life. There was the epic non-stop seven hours of crying from 3P to 10P on her 12th day on earth. Only a 10P call to the pediatrician got us to put her in her crib, let her cry for up to 15 minutes, and then have her fall asleep (in exhaustion) soundly almost immediately. Then there was all night red eye cry. Flying back to Phoenix from New York City from my brother Richard’s wedding to Barbara when Molly was 11 months, we had a crying Molly for the entire darkened plane ride. We were not voted passengers of the year for that episode. Like all (most?) parents, we survived.
Molly has an intriguing book by Harvey Karp, MD, The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Your Newborn Baby. From my very brief review, I learned that Dr. Karp likes to think of the first three months after birth as the fourth trimester. If one buys into that notion, one might also consider his five Ss to reduce a baby’s crying. (1) Swaddling – tight wrapping, (2) Side/Stomach – laying your baby on his side or stomach, (3) Shushing – loud white noise, (4) Swinging – rhythmic jiggling motion, and (5) Sucking – nipple, finger, or pacifier. If any of this sounds intriguing, check out the two links above (author and title).
I have to say rocking Owen Daniel in my arms is as good as it gets. He shares his middle name with my Dad and me. I am humbled and grateful that Molly and Tip bestowed that additional connection for me with Owen.
Hannah and I look to be around when he walks across the stage in Tempe, Arizona as a graduate of the Harvard of the West, Arizona State University.