Some moms always want their kid to seem older, to become a “big boy” or “big girl.” They want to feed him solids as soon as possible. They want her car seat to face forward. They want their child to hit each new milestone right now.
At first, that might sound like me, too. I get nervous when I wonder why LM isn’t doing quite the same things as the other kids his age. I was anxious for him to sit up, to crawl, to walk, because he always seemed to reach his milestones on the late end of normal.
But in other ways, I feel very different from parents who just want their kids to grow up. Because I want my son to stay a baby forever. OK, that might be an exaggeration. But it’s also kind of true.
When LM was only a few weeks old, we were at the doctor’s office. A mom with a preteen daughter admired LM, telling me, “It all really goes by so fast.” Addressing her daughter, she said, “You were that small once!” I laughed and thought how corny and cliche, but now, 16 months later, I already understand what she meant.
I still call LM a “baby,” even if he’s actually a little boy. I can’t help it. I look at him and wonder where the time went, how he got to be so big. Sometimes he seems to change almost overnight. Just a couple of weeks ago I was admiring his tiny baby butt during a diaper change, and now it has suddenly gotten bigger. His whole body seems to have gotten wider and longer, and he’s losing his baby-ness. And I miss it!
Because of the fog I was in for the first year of his life, it’s difficult for me to even remember exactly what he looked like as a tiny peanut. I have pictures, sure, but it doesn’t seem like enough. When I close my eyes, I have a hard time visualizing him in 3D without hair, without teeth, his tiny body curled on my chest. How is it that I’m already forgetting?
It is cliche. But they do grow up fast.
I’ve been making a study of the passing of time lately. There’s a somewhat cheesy phrase about motherhood: “The days are long but the years are short.” I’ve been marveling at the changing of the seasons, at how quickly one flows into the next. Things that are in reality so prosaic, like a hot breeze in summer or leaves rustling in the fall or a snowstorm in winter, cause me to catch my breath and wonder at the simple fact of life’s existence.
Before I had kids I dreamed of all the wonderful things I wanted to witness in the world, and even though I really wanted a child, I worried that he or she would curb my ability to see them. Now that LM is here, I realize that he probably will. But what I didn’t realize is how much experiencing those things wouldn’t matter anymore. The ordinary in life has become the extraordinary, and what I previously considered extraordinary no longer seems as interesting.
Last weekend we went to my parents’ hometown of Syracuse, NY, for my cousin’s bridal shower. We stayed at my grandfather’s home, which is across the street from that of my great aunt, who since my grandmother’s death has been a sort of de-facto grandma, the matriarch of the family even though she never married or had children. I thought about how much this street corner has meant to my family over the last 70 or so years – my aunt’s house was formerly my great-grandmother’s, and my grandma and grandpa built their house in the early ’50s. My mother scampered in this yard as a child. I was bathed in this kitchen sink. My grandparents raised four children here. Countless holidays and relatives and cousins and loud Italian hand-talkers have passed through here.
Now that I have a child, I realize even more how much I’m a part of this never-ending circle of life. It’s not just about genetics or giving birth – my great-aunt is a testament to that – but about affecting other people in the most profound way: by taking care of them and loving them and making them a part of something bigger than either one of you.
I know my son will grow up (God-willing) and (hopefully) have his own children. As much as I might long for his baby days, there is nothing I can do to slow the passage of time. He’ll keep on growing, slipping through my fingers, in the words of ABBA. But what consoles me is this finally-found purpose of doing something extremely ordinary yet extremely important: raising another human being.