When we had our first child, my son Graham, I felt like we were stepping into a new world. There was so much territory completely unexplored, and we were full of eagerness and anticipation, and anxiety.
Having my second child — a daughter, Campbell, who arrived last Tuesday — is a different sensation entirely. I felt like we were hiring someone to be part of a going concern. Our organization had the position of “Child Associate” on the org chart already. We were satisfied with the current holder of that position, and we weren’t changing that at all. I and my Executive VP of Baby Making had just decided that we were ready to expand our operations by adding another position to that department.
My son was kind of like an alien we were bringing into our home. Certainly a cute, unthreatening alien; an alien who had much to teach us, like E.T. But there was still always in the back of our minds a lingering concern that we might kill him, or he might kill us.
My daughter, on the other hand, doesn’t seem alien at all. But I was full of concerns about how she would fit into our young but established family. How would she do in the interview for that new Child Associate position?
Me: So, what strengths do you think you’ll bring to our organization?
Campbell: Well, I think that clearly I can raise the organization’s cuteness by an order of magnitude. But if you look closely at my c.v., I think you’ll see I’m quite capable in the areas of “pooping” and “making funny faces while I sleep” as well. Also, hair.
Me: Excellent. I think we’d be filling some needs there. Have you met the current Child Associate you’ll be working with?
Campbell: We’ve spoken before, but our conversations have been fairly one-sided and muffled by the uterine wall.
Me: I see. We think that chemistry among our team members is crucial. Can we count on you to make a special effort in that area?
Campbell: Absolutely. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my personal goal of putting everything I see into my mouth.
Me: Shouldn’t be a problem. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Campbell: Breaking things on slightly higher shelves.
So now, suddenly, our staff has increased by 33%. When I refer to “just our family,” I’m talking about four people instead of three.
And it’s funny how familiar my daughter seems to me. As familiar as a brand new baby can seem, I suppose. Since bringing her home, it’s seemed like she was always supposed to be here, just as natural as you please.
This time around, all the sensation of newness will be felt by my son, who finds himself in a senior position that he never asked for. But new responsibilities are the things that clear out the underbrush of our lives and give us space to grow. He’s worried that he’s losing some part of his connection with his mom and dad, and at the same time, he’s so curious about her that he can hardly stand it. The way it is in any outfit that brings in new blood.
He will learn, though, that what keeps our going concern going is the knowledge that we are there for each other. Because in the end there’s no one else. Along with her many other endearing qualities, little Campbell has come to bring us all that lesson one more time.
There’s a learning process to fitting in, and chemistry rarely happens all at once. So, there’s no use worrying about it all at once either. I’ll just try to look forward to all the lessons that we’ll teach each other, with great, joyous anticipation.