Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer in the City?

The first day of summer dawned bright and clear in Seattle yesterday. I opened the curtains of our bedroom, letting in a burst of sunlight, a fitting start to my favorite season. In the afternoon, Michael an I enjoyed a late, leisurely lunch of wine and sandwiches on the patio at Citizen, while Julian dozed in his shaded car seat beside us.

Of course, today the clouds are back. The weather report, which I distinctly remember predicted temperatures in the high 60s and partly sunny weather for the remainder of the week when I checked it over the weekend, now warns of incoming rain, just in time for our out of town guests from Norway, who arrive this afternoon.

I had high hopes for a summer off work with our new baby. Often the easiest way to get out of the house with a newborn is to simply take a walk around the neighborhood, a simple task that becomes more enjoyable when the weather's warm and the sun lingers longer in the sky. With last summer infamously known as, "the coldest summer in 30 years", I was sure that things could only go up from there, but the weather report and the thought of rain leaves me dejected.

Not that we haven't made use of the sun when it shines. Glancing down I can see the pale criss-cross of my shoe strap marked across my bare feet, evidence that yesterday really did happen. Sunny afternoons have made their appearance, just not as frequently as hoped.

Saturday we ventured out to Green Lake for our first "destination" walk - some place requiring a drive to get there, rather than simply stepping out our front door. The weather was disappointingly damp, but I still packed turkey sandwiches to share with our friend Lewissa, whom we met up with at Chocolati Cafe.

"It's June-uary!" Michael announced, while we picked from the exotic hot chocolate drinks listed on the menu. At least the weather was conducive to sitting inside and sipping decadent hot beverages.

"Well," I countered, "this isn't exactly unusual for June around here."

"But it's been June-uary for a year!" lamented Lewissa. Aaaand... point for Lewissa!

After picnicking within the confines of the cafe, however, we were pleased to find it dry enough to manage a walk around the lake after all. Of course, this being our first outing where we had intended to do much walking with Julian, we had inadvertently left the stroller at home. Fortunately, a one-month-old is still pretty light, so we took turns carrying him as we made the 2.8 mile loop around the lake. Even without the sunshine, it was good to be out.

Take Me Out

Last week I spent Monday night high in the stands of Safeco Field with three friends, watching the Mariners lose to the Angels. At least, compared with a game I went to last summer, one that the Mariners ultimately won, there was some actual scoring throughout the innings. At that previous game, hardly a man made it to first base throughout nine innings, and it wasn't until the second extra inning that anyone made it safely to home plate.

More significantly, though, I was out... with friends... without the baby.

It was the first time, exactly four week's after Julian's birth. It felt good, on a beautiful evening, to feel normal again, just to be someone hanging out with friends enjoying a game, some conversation, and garlic fries. Parenthood, something I'm still trying to get a grasp on, felt far away.

I'm not sure when the feeling of being a parent kicks in for most people, but most parents I've spoken with can remember the early days as a whirl of wonder, confusion, and frustration. It's a sudden leap into new responsibilities beyond the magnitude of any most have previously experienced, and it comes with a label that all too often becomes the predominate lens through which others view us: we are now parents. Mothers, in particular, can get lost behind this new title. The world still tends to view us as the primary care providers, the ones most emotionally and physically invested in our children. And frankly, in the early days of breast feeding, we are often the sole provider of nourishment for our babies, something that occupies the majority of a newborn's waking hours.

It can be hard to come to terms with this new role and the pull it exerts on all other areas of my life, of my identity. I don't want to lose the friends I've had, spending all my nights at home with my child, trading adult socializing for the company of an infant who can't yet crack a genuine smile. As a mother, I am determined that I am adding to my identity, not taking away from it, and the occasional night out provides just the confirmation and respite that I need.

Of course, all bets are off when that baby does start smiling. I definitely want to be home for that.