I was reading a post on a friend’s Facebook page the other day. She’s a new mom, excited about everything her daughter is doing, and how fast she is progressing in the things that she is learning on a minute by minute basis. Her tiny girl was learning how to pull herself up and managing to stand for a few seconds before she fell backwards on her bottom. It took me back to those days when Tricia was a baby, and each hurdle she crossed deserved an Olympic medal. I cherish those memories. I miss those moments.
I was struck how this new mom had lost the opportunity to simply enjoy each of her daughter’s accomplishments on its own merit. Instead, she was contemplating when she would start crawling, then walking or talking. I felt sad for her in ways that only time can explain adequately to her. Why is it that, as parents, we have such a difficult time finding the magic in what our child is doing right here, right now? I can remember being guilty of this myself. It usually happened when I was sleep deprived, or covered in mashed peas, or walking the floors for hours with a crying infant who could not be consoled. There are plenty of instances when being a parent is the hardest thing in the world, and your only wish is that they were all grown up and heading off to college. Sometimes though, I would sneak into her room while she was sleeping just to stare at her, often for an hour or more. In my mind, she was the most beautiful, most precious gift I had ever been given. She still is.
When I reflect upon those first years when Tricia was still a baby, the overriding emotion I feel these days is regret for those first years not having lasted longer. It was like I blinked and the years were gone. The baby was there for only an instant. Now, I look at her, on the verge of teenage-dom, rolling her eyes at me, and relishing each moment that she gets under my skin. We clash often, but by the end of the day, we are usually back at center – complete with hugs and I love yous, and for this I am truly thankful. She is my heart on my sleeve, my faith that there really is a God out there somewhere. But more and more, I find myself wishing that she was still in my arms, her head on my shoulder, that irresistible “baby smell” clinging to my nostrils. The thought of it can literally bring me to tears.
I think the fair thing in life would be to have them be babies for five years and teenagers for a year, instead of the other way around. And my advice to any new parent? Enjoy every moment. Soon enough, they’re talking back, and wanting to spend more time with their friends than with you. They’re embarrassed by your singing in the car, and they wish you could be like “all the other parents”, whatever the hell that means. THAT is when it would be soooo nice to have the baby back, all snuggled up, and still unable to talk. :)