Dear Riley: What You’re Already Teaching Us

NOTE: Pics will be inserted into this post once I find the cord that connects the camera to the laptop.

Dear Riley,

There’s a storm outside. The wind is whipping around so that I feel like we might end up in Oz. The rain is cascading down in sheets. Thunder is crashing all around. And yet here you are, 16 days old, quiet as a lamb, and safe and sound in your bassinet. A string quartet could be serenading you with Brahm’s lullaby, you’re so calm and serene.

Any second now, I expect you to wake up with a jolt and give me the look you’ve already patented that seems to say, “Umm… I don’t know how to tell you this, but there’s a problem.” It’s pretty amazing, this look. It’s bewilderment, surprise, disappointment, and condescension all wrapped up into one forehead-lined grimace.

Maybe those aren’t emotions I’d like readily expressed by my teenage son, but you’re, like, two weeks old. At this age, honestly, ANYTHING you do is pure adorableness. So this look? It’s as awesome as the events you caused on the day we took you home from the hospital.

You were two days old, and our first stop after being discharged from the hospital was your Grandma Nanette’s house in Brooklyn. Auntie Julie and Tita Tessie were fawning over you, and when it was your Grandma Nanette’s turn, she just held you out in her two brown hands and stared down at your perfect little face. She sat there, on the sofa of the upstairs living room, her eyes going over every little detail about you. And your Grandma Nanette, the same wise-cracking and hard-as-nails woman who has survived a seriously bad bout of lung cancer, the excrutiating pain brought about by chemo therapy and radiation treatment, and a 20-year old divorce that STILL has her going to court with her ex – well, she had to hold back tears. She just stared at you and all of these emotions welled up inside her, threatening to expose themselves.

Your dad and I watched from the other side of the room, and I could feel the gears of your dad’s mind working as he took note of your Grandma Nanette’s change of expression: He felt this amazing tinge of jealousy and joy all rolled into one.

See, parents and their children often have very complex and complicated relationships (as you’ll no doubt learn), and your dad and Grandma Nanette definitely prove this rule. But at that moment, as your Grandma Nanette’s eyes met yours and her face glowed, there was no doubt of her love for you. And this knowledge, I believe, transformed your dad’s opinion of his mom for the better.

Next, we went to Queens, to settle into your Tatay Ben’s and Grandma Liza’s house. Your Uncle Justin had rented a car so that we could drive home in air-conditioned comfort, and just as soon as he pulled up to the curb and your dad lifted your car seat out of its base, your Tatay Ben appeared. It’s like he sensed you from the backyard. He hadn’t yet seen you, and the moment he laid eyes on you it was like he was on ‘shrooms and a kapleidescope of color was beaming out of your every orifice, saturating the world in rainbows. He was entranced.

Tatay Ben was on the phone with Tatay Onnie, and all the while he was taking note of your every feature and expression, and communicating it to his brother. We brought you inside, and almost immediately I knew you’d soiled yourself. What I didn’t know was that somehow your dirty diaper had overflowed, so that half of your back was covered with yellowish goop. Tatay Ben relayed this to Tatay Onnie, and their converation went something like this:

Tatay Ben: Talk about holy crap! Riley crapped so much that it’s halfway up his back!
Tatay Onnie: It’s okay. Don’t freak out too much. It’s just baby poop.
Tatay Ben: Freak out? Who’s freaking out? It’s breast milk that’s been through a newborn’s system. It’s so clean, I could eat it with a spoon… I think I just might!

That’s how much your Tatay Ben is in love with you: He’s willing to eat your poop. Be sure to remember that when you need your first bail bond.

The fact is, all of your grandparents have shown great emotion concerning your birth. Your Grandma Liza cried when she first saw you; your Grandpa Benny cried the first time he heard that I was pregnant with you. All of this mirth and giddiness is doing wonders for the repoire your father and I have with our parents. In the days since that day, your father and I have noticed and appreciated more about our parents than we ever have before. We now understand the opposition they’ve faced, the strength they’ve shown, and the beauty of their humanity. We’ve come to accept their faults and mistakes. We’ve learned to depend on them for support of all kinds. We’ve realized for the first time that they are in fact human, and as such, are perfectly imperfect. These are facts that have never quite sunken in. Go figure: You don’t even have a birth certificate yet, and you’re already teaching us a thing or two about life.

From the moment I decided to have you, I knew you’d change my life in so many ways. I knew you’d alter my perspectives, opinions, and priorities. I knew that you’d change my relationships and make me such a different person from the one I was accustomed to. I knew all of that and I was ready for it. What I didn’t
bargain on was the awe you inspire, the beauty you relate, the hope and joy you bring just by being around. Your birth completes me in ways I’d never thought possible. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.

Love always,


4 responses to “Dear Riley: What You’re Already Teaching Us

  1. lmao@ eating the poop
    n u know u got me teary-eyed right?
    i gots to see the lil man again
    babies n love n rainbows n all that good stuff

  2. Oh big congratulations, I can’t wait for pictures! Pardon my extreme ignorance on this, but could you clarify for me (if you have time) what a Tatay is? I’m gathering that it is a male role model…but don’t know if I’m right about that.

    But again, congratulations. It is amazing how being a parent makes one a more forgiving child.

  3. honey, that was incredibly poignant. I cried a bit too. that means so much to you and rob. little rileys so amazing. I can’t wait to see him again.

  4. Dej – Can’t wait till you see him again. He’s getting so big, it’s kinda crazy.

    Becky – Thank you! I’m putting up pics right after writing this reply!

    No need to apologize or anything! “Tatay” is a Tagalog term that means “father.” Coloquially, lots of people use it as a term of endearment, usually for a grandfather, to show that they’re close. (Tagalog is the main language of the Philippines.)

    Jess – 🙂

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