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angels and demons

Somewhere between the midnight feedings, endless dirty diapers, and toddler tantrums, parenthood instills an appreciation for perspective.

“What a lovely, quiet date!” remarked S without a trace of irony as we took turns cradling Junebug in our arms while sharing a dozen oysters. Our newborn squawked her displeasure once in a while, but mostly stayed quiet as we hurriedly enjoyed our meal before rushing home. We had snuck away to run an errand, taking Junebug but leaving D’s parents to deal with Munchkin’s incipient meltdown, and the abbreviated outing definitely felt tranquil without his antics. And yet, a few years ago – when Munchkin was Junebug’s age – simply getting out of the house felt daunting, and dinner out with a newborn would have been far from our idea of a lovely, quiet date.

The previous day we had brought both kids for farewell drinks with friends before D’s forthcoming return to Rwanda. Munchkin was on surprisingly good behavior, and yet the only quiet moment we had when both of us could sit, sip our beers, and have an adult conversation was when Munchkin befriended a couple at an adjacent table. They looked like they might have been on a first date. Munchkin cut in on their somewhat stilted conversation, picked a flower for the young woman, pulled up a chair in between them, and could not be coaxed back to our table for close to half an hour. We were torn between gratitude that they were such good sports with Munchkin and self-reproach for our own parental laxness. D assuaged our pangs of guilt by buying the couple a round of drinks.

From a parental discipline perspective, this summer has been a bit of a disaster. No school to provide structure for Munchkin; endless visits from relatives, who all come bearing gifts; frequent trips to the neighborhood ice cream shop – our kid is being spoiled rotten. When he developed a predilection for running errands with S’s mom, we were thrilled. When he insisted on coming to CVS with us one day and made a beeline for the candy stand as soon as we entered the store, we realized why. We too caved to his demands for a “wollypop.”

The few days we’ve been on our own, Munchkin sometimes puts up a fight, but almost always goes down for his afternoon nap, providing a blessed respite from our constant struggle to match his boundless energy. When we have visitors, however, the naps have been hard to come by. And since we’ve had family staying with us for the bulk of the summer, Munchkin has all but given up his afternoon nap. Age-wise, he’s old enough to go without a nap, and our visitors love to entertain him, but we’re sure to miss his naps once we return to Kigali and no longer have family close by to help contain him.

Junebug, meanwhile, is approaching the end of her first month of life. She has proved such a blissfully calm baby thus far that we sometimes have to pinch ourselves and remember that everything in parenthood is a phase, and one must make the most of the sweet moments because they run their course as surely as the challenging phases that follow.

Of course, as soon as we congratulate ourselves on how wonderfully things are going, they immediately come undone. After three tranquil weeks Junebug developed colic and fussed incessantly for the better part of two days before it mercifully passed. Naturally, this happened just as all of our visitors left and we had a couple of days to ourselves. So there we were, trying to sit down to dinner with Munchkin throwing a tantrum and Junebug crying through her pacifier in D’s arms – both of us at our wits’ end and wondering why on Earth we thought that having children was a good idea.

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