before you came into my life I missed you so bad.

My feelings about Atticus were complicated before he was born. We hadn’t met, so even though I cared about and for him, it was difficult having a stranger living inside me. Not to mention that he was (and is) an active boy. When I was pregnant, this meant that he constantly kicked me. It was draining to provide constant sustenance for someone who responded by keeping me awake at night, both before and after he was born.

Things are better now, even though Atticus is growing molars and testing his independence. He doesn’t kick me these days, although I do have bruises that I blame on him because that’s easier than admitting to my own clumsiness. He gives open-mouth kisses and he erupts with laughter when I tickle-chase him. We have to watch what we say, because he can imitate any and all of it. And he sings! He knows the tune of “This Old Man” and he can sing part of “Moving Right Along” by Kermit and Fozzie. He loves the Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks video. He gets healthy doses of Eef Barzelay and Josh Ritter and M. Ward and Patty Griffin. He likes “Yellow” by Coldplay and a whole bunch of Beatles songs. We are trying to do right by his musical education. (Shut up, we still like Coldplay.)

But here is my secret parenting shame: he loves “Baby” by Justin Bieber.

I fully admit that this is my fault. For one thing, I dressed as Justin Bieber for rock star day, so it was in my head for days. Plus, it’s just so easy to sing a song like that to your baby. They learn the word baby early on, and it makes good sense to sing songs with words they know. (“Baby You Can Drive My Car” is also fairly popular around here.) Recently, he started singing it, “Baby, baby, baby, oh, baby, baby, baby, oh!” He won’t do it on cue, so I don’t have a video for you. Just imagine us riding around in the car and a sweet toddler voice singing in the back seat. Because that’s how it happens.

Since I have no video, please enjoy this picture of me dressed as Justin Bieber instead.

A couple of days ago, I showed Atticus the US Swim Team’s video for “Call Me Maybe.” This is another parenting decision I am not super proud of, but he smiled and laughed, so I have been singing it to him. And I have to admit that I get a little misty-eyed at the line, “Before you came into my life I missed you so bad.”

Given how I felt at the beginning, the emotion is surprising. I am not totally comfortable with the notion that I missed Atticus before he was around. I did not have a particular longing for a baby or a desire to be a mother. In fact, I have, many times, missed my old life and its comforts.

But there is a kind of truth in the line, one that I could not have anticipated in those cold and painful first months of Atticus’s life. Things are different now: I climb on swing sets and talk about poop. My ear is fine-tuned to hear airplanes flying overhead. I can decipher toddler-speak using only context clues. I sing in public and there are three different toy airplanes on my floor.

I didn’t know that I would enjoy any of that. Atticus has pushed us to try new things. He makes us laugh. He has forced us to grow as individuals and as parents and as people who are married to each other. I can see now that having Atticus was the right choice for us. There might not have been an Atticus-shaped space in our lives before he was born, but the ways that things have changed are right and good and make us glad we didn’t close ourselves off to this very different way of life. Without him, we would have missed out on so many things that are bringing us joy we couldn’t have anticipated.

So, while Carly Rae Jepsen does not meet Mike’s standards for indie Americana hipster artists (and also Coldplay), I am going to keep on slipping her in. I want Atticus to know how much I missed out on his particular kind of fun before he was around.

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