Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Parenthood is such a joyous time.

I was reminded of this while attending a banquet Saturday in Aberdeen. I walked past a couple whose baby girl, their first, was born just a few months ago.

I paused just long enough to ask how Mom, Dad and baby were doing, and the new parents just glowed.

"Everything is just great!" they seemed to say simultaneously.

There were no signs of some of the trials that face new parents, particularly mothers. I've read that at least 50 to 80 percent of new mothers experience the baby blues, a mild form of depression that begins a few days to a week after delivery, and generally lasts about two weeks.

The emotional high of birth disappears quickly, according to the magazine article, to be replaced by the many new responsibilities that come with parenthood. Taking care of a newborn, while emotionally gratifying, can also be taxing and frustrating, especially for a first-time mom. It's normal to feel overwhelmed.

There is an ironic twist to all of this. While Cindy and I were attending the banquet, our two teen-aged daughters were splashing around in the motel's swimming pool, having a blast. Our stay in Aberdeen began Friday, and ended Sunday. It was really the first time that the four of us have all been together for a while.

Really, really together.

It's a long drive up to Aberdeen and we were packed like sardines in our car. The motel room was comfortable, but it's not like being at home, where you can wander off to another room when you need your own space. There is no other room.

So much familial activity � we traveled together, we ate at restaurants and banquets together, we played miniature golf and explored parks and crashed in the motel room. Together.

So Sunday � Father's Day � turned out to have more than just one ironic twist to it. Sunday, emotionally, had all the adventure of those state-of-the-art roller coasters that take you up higher, bring you down faster, and throw in a couple loops along the way.

I found myself struggling with what I'll term the "Father's Day blues." This condition isn't caused by receiving ugly neckties or a gift assortment of musk soap, musk after shave, musk deodorant, musk cologne and even musk musk.

This syndrome I'm currently suffering is, in fact, the baby blues turned inside out. The past is cherished. The future brings feelings of dread.

You see, we didn't go straight home Sunday. We had to make a detour to Enemy Swim Lake, near Waubay, to drop Andrea off at church camp.

Andrea is 13, wears hip-huggers and flashes a new smile because she just had her braces removed.

As I write this, I haven't seen her for nearly three days. I miss her terribly. And I could tell by the expression on her face as we pulled into camp Sunday that she was more than a little bit overwhelmed.

Nothing was familiar. All this week, she's sleeping in a strange bed, bunking with strange kids (as opposed to kids who are strangers), and eating strange food. And Cindy and I are nearly 200 miles away.

The source of my mild depression isn't just the fact that I don't have my Andrea this week. Time is the culprit. It never stops. Things never stop changing. The world, unfortunately, wasn't built with a pause button.

My girls � Cindy's and my babies � are growing up.

Why does life always have to change? How can little girls be in diapers one minute, and camisoles the next?

Once they held little tea parties with their dolls and stuffed animals. Now they go to school dances and wear retro clothes and makeup and talk about boys.

Andrea knew Saturday night before going to bed at the motel that she wouldn't be seeing me for a few days after Sunday afternoon. So she climbed into my lap � a feat that's growing more and more difficult as her legs grow longer and longer � to cuddle for a while.

It's our special nighttime ritual. She still expects this from her daddy.

It's moments like these that have made fatherhood special for me for the past 14 years.

It won't be long before Sarah and Andrea are grown and leave the nest. Soon, I'll be missing what it was like to be a dad on Father's Day, 2000.

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