Last night, I was holding my son and swaying in time to some early Beatles songs, an activity he loves. As usual, he was looking away from me, a serious expression on his face, intently listening and occasionally cooing as though trying to sing along. We had listened to several songs when, abruptly, he twisted away from me, indicating he was ready for me to release him to go and play. He had never done this before; he always seemed to have limitless interest in our “dancing.” And thus, one more little phase ended.
Ever since my son reached the one-year mark, I have found myself reflecting on what our lives were like a year ago when he was a newborn and retracing his route to where we are now. At times it seemed so slow, but somehow I find myself wondering how we got here.
Having a child has forced me to change the way I look at time. Before, if I saw something was coming, I would take measures to prepare, to make the transition and the change itself easier on a long-term basis. My son’s phases, though, are so relatively short compared to other changes I’ve experienced, it has taken me a while to realize that I can’t keep planning for a future in which he is doing a particular thing indefinitely. For example, during our dancing session, I was thinking how I should try getting him to dance standing on his own, since he will soon be too heavy for me to hold him and do this for very long at a time. When he began to squirm, the lesson really hit home: I should just to do this as long as he will let me, because the odds are much greater that he will tire of it before I do.
It seems to me that parenting, especially during the first year of life, is full of heart-breakingly short phases. When he was a newborn, my son would fall asleep on my husband’s outstretched arm as he sang to him. When he first started to crawl, he began diving into my lap and then using me to pull himself up. He was so little then - a footstool he used to use to pull up on barely came to his chin and now hits about mid-torso. Even the difficult phases, like the few weeks when he would cry for a couple of hours in the evening until we paced and sang and played soft music enough to calm him, are heart-breaking simply because they were so short and because he will never be in that phase again.
Even before my son was born, I began mourning the independence that I knew he would begin to manifest far too quickly for my taste. I consoled myself by thinking that he wasn’t even born yet and that the days when he would need me the most in his life were still ahead to be enjoyed. Now, however, I find myself wondering what happened to the little baby who was content to be held and nursed and read to for hours on end. There is a lot to look forward to now, of course - spring and summer with a toddler who can walk and run and play on a playground for the first time, but I still miss the baby he used to be.
When I was pregnant, people tried to prepare me for what was ahead, usually by telling me how sleep deprived I was going to be or how I would need to get out of the house and do things for myself. One friend, however, told me in a wistful tone to enjoy babyhood as much as possible, as it is over so quickly. I think that was my favorite bit of advice. Though I tried to heed it, I don’t think I could ever say I did it enough.
J LeBlanc is a former high school teacher who resides in Lebanon, N.H. She is currently taking a break from teaching to stay home with her 8-month-old son.
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