Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Transition of Power

Unless you've been living under a rock these past weeks, you know there's a transition of power happening in Washington right now, as the Bush Administration makes way for the Obama Administration.

But what you may not be aware of is that here in my 350 square foot apartment on the far eastern and utterly unfashionable section of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a different type of transition of power is taking place. And if you were to climb the 48 echoing steps to my apartment, you would catch a glimpse of the Mom Administration making way for the Dad Administration.

Last year at this time, as Spiceboy and I began our ascent to that strange and foggy summit of becoming a family, I looked forward to the experiences that would come with it--that we would we able to have a baby and still do right by each other, and share responsiblities in a way that our parents' generation did not. But in the excitement and rush of the pregnancy, the anticipation of those experiences dissolved in the face of the little bundle of cells growing inside of me, and I became immersed in all things "mama."

But now the final weeks of my maternity leave are coming to a close, and the lovely Spiceboy, man of men, husband of husbands, father of fathers, has made the brave decision to spend his days at home with Miss Alice so that I may return to my job in publishing. So I've been trying to step back a little bit around the house, to let Spiceboy and Alice find their own groove.

It's been a lot more difficult than I expected. Too often I find myself hovering over the two of them, making suggestions from the sidelines:

"She might want her binky."

"Try holding her over your shoulder."

"Let her head fall back just a little bit more. Good. Now bounce her. Now swing her. No--not that way!"

It's difficult to watch Spiceboy hold or feed or comfort Alice without feeling like he's doing it wrong because he's not doing it the way I would do it. But he's not wrong--he's just different. And therein lies a lesson that I haven't had to heed for awhile: being in relationship is a constant balancing act. Trust is a fragile thing, and putting that trust in someone else's hands requires a huge leap of faith. You make that leap of faith when you first fall in love with someone. And you make it again when you exchange wedding vows. And you make it yet again when you undertake the gargantuan, heartbreaking task of raising a child together.

Spiceboy might not do things the way I would do them, but that doesn't make them wrong. So maybe using the phrase "transition of power" to describe what's happening in our household is the wrong way to put it--because the power was never all mine to begin with. Power is a fluid thing. It's something that passes back and forth between us, something that holds us together as a family unit. It comes from understanding our strengths, reconizing our weaknesses, and knowing when to let the other person step in and help.

And now, as I prepare to leave the cozy little nest I've feathered with my family over these last three an a half months and lash myself onto the 9-5 merry-go-round once again, the experiences I so looked forward to last year at this time have finally come to pass, and they are more frightening and exciting than I ever imagined they would be.

I only hope I can meet them with an open mind, an open heart, maturity, and grace.