Monday, November 16, 2020

First Snow

For those who have heard the poem and seen the photos, here is the text of the poem: "First Snow" for your reading enjoyment. Be sure to read it aloud. You can follow along on with the video on YouTube.

First Snow

It seems lately that one day it is gorgeous
with lots of sun, and the next day,
clouds, cold, and flurries that drown out
summer and picnics and laziness outside.
While we mumble about this new fascination
of the onset of winter among other things,
the first snow cleanses the air, forces
the unsavory particles from the sky to the ground,
creating a sense of newness of white
and clarity in the air and in our minds,
especially if we take a brisk walk in the early morning
after the white stuff finds its way onto the lawns,
still green, the water ways, ducks’ backs, roses, and trees.

The shimmering of the mountains as the sun floats
over them, seeing the snow for the first time,
brightens everything, making us a bit giddy,
allowing us to bask in both the brisk and beauty
of the glimmering of snow and the coldness
of the water in the streams and ponds, caked on the sides
with snow-covered greenery and ice dangling
on fallen branches, brown and gold leaves, and logs.
High in the sky, the Canadian geese are out
marauding around, honking at each other
and every wing snapping in perfect cadence
to wherever they are going.

I just stand on the pond’s edge, listening
to the gurgling and the greenheads milling around
with a cadre of other duck breeds.
Although my fingers are a bit chilly,
I am warm with my vest beneath my coat
and stocking cap on my head,
my feet snug in warm socks and new boots.

I snap a few pictures, holding the camera
just so to capture the glistening
and the quietness of the snow-laden branches,
reminiscing of times past in Idaho
with my brothers and sisters, snowball fights,
snow forts, and inner tubes pulled by tractors
and then lounging afterwards by the fireplace hearth,
a hot cup of chocolate in hand, laced
with tiny marshmallows simmering
and dissolving into the chocolate,
creating a pause in my thoughts
of the future and yesterday simultaneously.

Darrel L. Hammon
November 14, 2020

Monday, November 2, 2020

Are you ready to be first-time parents?

Not long ago, I was visiting with two of our friends who were preparing for their first baby reveal about what first-time parents ought to know before the baby comes and even after. They were curious as to what to expect. I told them I would do a little research.

So, what does one do to research this information? You ask experienced parents, especially those who just had a baby! I used Facebook as my research tool and posted this question: “What would be your top three things/principles first-time parents ought to know?”

I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of answers I received from recent first-time parents, parents with eight children, and grandparents. Once I read and reviewed the information, I have categorized them in 15 categories, directly from other parents and grandparents who have been in your shoes.

Here they are, first-time parents:

Love them

This was the number one answer for most respondents. A father of twins, Carl, said, “Recognize that love is infinite and grows with each child.” It will be really challenging not to love your new baby. I remember seeing Anna Rose and Hailey, our daughters, for the first time after they were born, and we loved them instantly. In actuality, though, the moment you find out that your spouse is going to have a baby your love begins and grows and grows. According to Amy, a mother of several daughters and one son, “Be prepared to love like you’ve never loved before….Babies also need to FEEL love and lots of it.”

Do your very best.

The one thing most everyone agreed on is this: You are going to make mistakes. I know that is a challenging concept to accept, but it is the truth. Do not worry about the “should-have-done-it-this-way.” There really are lots of correct ways, many of them you will learn along the way. Your child will love you even though may make a mistake. They probably will not realize it. Just move on from that mistake and do what you know you need to do. Great parenting comes from doing your best and improving every day.

Relax and enjoy the experience.

One mother Kristen astutely wrote, “If you have to choose between a nap and a shower, it’s okay to choose the nap.” Joanne, my wonderful wife, wrote: “Take time to record the memories.” Write in your journal or even buy a journal or a baby book for your baby and record the moments. Often, you will be holding your new baby in the new rocking chair or recliner, and all you want to do is just hold the baby, nothing else. That is okay. There will be a constant nagging in the back of your mind that there are things to be done. These times will not last forever. Just sit back and enjoy that sweet baby.

Understand that every baby is different.

Sandra, one of my high school classmates, reminisced, “I thought I knew everything until I had my 8th child. She was nothing like the rest. It was like starting completely over!” Focus on your child and know they will be different than the rest of your children and anyone else’s. There is nothing wrong with that. Some will need more cuddling than others; some will drink more milk; others may cry more or smile more or….a thousand other differences. Be accepting of those differences.

Seek to establish a family-centered child and not a child-center family.

Another mother Kandi gave this counsel. “The family is truly the center, not necessarily the children. The children need to learn to be part of a family and have responsibilities and consequences. Amazingly, when we work as a family team, everyone learns their role and how to grow and develop their talents with the help of their siblings.” Yes, it is easy to just focus on just your baby and nothing else. Please create the environment so they know they are part of a family, even an extended family.

Know that you can never prepare enough but “tis enough.”

Because of the inordinate number of books, the Internet, etc., you will have lots of first-time parent material to read and ponder. But when the little one arrives, it is as if you did not read or listen to a word. You look at your baby and say, maybe a wee bit exasperated, “I have no idea what to do!” Well, that is truly a frustrating moment. We were the same way. We had read the books, but we felt so unprepared. But the moment Anna Rose, our first, was placed in Joanne’s arms, she knew exactly what to do. That mother instinct kicked in immediately. It was a marvel to watch. One father, Chris, a young man we knew in Miles City, Montana, said, “Nobody is ever truly ready for the first children. There are lots of trials by fire….experience is the best teacher.” Just remember: You will be enough.

Be prepared to be tired, probably even exhausted.

Many mothers responded how tiring it was being a first-time mother. One of the grandmothers who responded, Therese, commented: “It’s okay if you don’t get the dishes done after each meal. Try to relax.” Babies are time consuming. With diapers, feeding, changing their clothes, holding them, just watching them, etc. takes time and great amounts of energy. These new babies are literally 24/7 beings and need attention all the time. You will be tired. So, take time and rest when they are resting. Do not think you have to do all these things while they are resting. Rest when they rest!

Listen to some advice but not all of it.

Once you announce you are going to have a baby, the advice and counsel will be delivered to you in dump trucks and several data dumps in your email box, Messenger, text, and other social media sources. Listen to some of it, but do not listen to all of it. There are thousands and thousands of books on parenting—some good, some bad, some mediocre. One mother, Nicole, wrote: “Listen to your own parental instincts rather than what your family, friends, Google, or the latest parenting book tells you….Find what works for YOU and your child.”

Know you are still an individual.

Sometimes first-time parents feel they lose their identity with a new baby in the home. People coo over the babies, bring them gifts, and then—maybe—they say something to the parents and ask them how they are doing. Jennifer, a mother of an autistic child, wisely wrote: “Don't forget to take time every day to do something that makes you, YOU. Take a bath, read a book, write in your journal. Maybe you'll only get five minutes, but it's five minutes where you get to be completely yourself.” The key is that you still have an identity, and it also needs to be fed.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to do.

There is always a fear that lingers prior to your first-born coming. Some sound advice comes from Brandy, a mother of three boys: “Give yourself more patience than criticism.” A fairly new mother, Candace, wrote: “Having children will change you in a way you never imagined. It will bring the worst and best out of you leaving—hopefully—a more perfect person full of compassion, understanding, patience, and charity.” If you enter this phase of life with fear, it will dissipate if you remember why you decided to have a baby. Yes, changes will occur. Yes, your body and emotions change. The key hinges, though, on knowing that these little ones will help us learn new lessons, help us grow and mature, and develop in positive ways. Thus, do not be afraid; rather, be anticipatory and grow from this incredible experience.

Do not compare yourself to other moms and the corollary is do not compare your children to other children.

Every child is different, yours included. Our oldest did not walk until she was 14 months old. We wondered what was wrong with her—what was wrong with us! She was bright, she could say a few words, she was attentive, but she did not walk. One day at Church, she was standing by her mother and me, holding on to both of my hands and watching the other kids her age and younger walking. She looked at them and then at us, let go of my hands, and began walking. Just. Like. That. One mother from Springville, Utah, Natalie, wrote: “You are the perfect parents for your children. Be your best self for your kids and don’t worry what other parents are doing.”

Read and talk to your children often.

One of my former basketball players, Darcy, said, “Talk to your babies a lot when they are little. Then, when they can talk, listen to everything they want to talk about. When they become teens, they will be more likely to talk to you when they need your help.” We loved reading with and to our children. When Joanne was in the hospital for two months when she was pregnant with our oldest, I read the Hobbit to both of them, Joanne in the hospital and Anna Rose in the womb. When Anna Rose began to grow, she loved being read to and still loves the Hobbit.

Remember to do the basics.

Several respondents reminded us of the basics of first-time parents. Leonr from Puerto Rico shared some counsel from her pediatrician daughter: “If you feed your baby with a bottle, don’t lay him/her down with the bottle of milk against a pillow because this may cause ear infections. Try to keep his head raised.” Many said, “Buy lots of diapers and burp cloths.” Pam wrote: “Pray every day for patience, kindness, love, safety, acceptance, help, strength, courage.”

Be the best father.

As first-time fathers, we know that it is the mothers who seem to do the bulk of the work with the babies. Be cognizant of that and try to help in any way you can. Do the housework, wash the dishes, put in a few loads of laundry. Do not wait to be asked. Also, you may want to take some time after the baby is down for a nap or right after they go to sleep and just rubbed your wife’s feet, back, shoulders, etc. Be attentive and observant to her needs. Remember: If it is your wife’s challenge, it is your challenge, too. This baby is yours together.  

Your life will change.

Starting a family will change you, and you may never be the same. Amy, one of the moms, counseled, “Nothing can really prepare you for the ways your life and your heart will never be the same. It’s also the hardest thing and can be quite overwhelming. You will experience sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, self-doubt and if you’re breastfeeding, this can be extremely painful and difficult, but you will know how to love them because that comes naturally.” But as a new father, Joseph, wrote: “You and your spouse may be sleep deprived, but as long as you support each other, take every opportunity to rest, keep an eye on each other’s emotions, you will learn to enjoy every moment.” Thus, change can be a learning experience.


Overall, being first-time parents can be challenging, yes, even hard at times. But the counsel that a OBGYN doctor, Liz (our niece), gave is profound: “It’s easy to look back on your life with young kids with rose-colored glasses and wish about all the things you ‘should have done’ and offer advice. Despite this when you are in it all the work still needs to get done and a lot of the time it’s hard. It’s ok that it’s hard, it’s ok that you hate it some days, it’s ok to be unhappy and not want to ‘relish’ every all-nighter, diaper explosion, tantrum, etc. Do your best, love them and know that they won’t be small forever, and eventually you’ll be able to look back with your rose-colored glasses and think that it wasn’t that hard.”

We wish you well, first-time parents. Do your best! And remember that you are you and will do just fine. Please have some fun being a first-time parent. 

Good luck!