The very thing that the senior citizens in the aisle of the grocery store warn you about. Do you know what I’m talking about? That thing that you hear constantly as a parent but you’re too tired to really internalize it. Here it is:
Don’t blink, it goes by so fast.
Yeah, yeah lady, now move out of the way so I can get this screaming kid some Goldfish.
Five and a half years ago I was newly postpartum. I sat upon my donut pillow pondering my brand new vocabulary that consisted of words like torn perineum and anal fissures (birth is fun!). There I sat, nursing my first baby for the eleventy billionth time in an hour, I winced in pain as he latched onto my cracked nipples. It’s a lot, those first few months of motherhood. A lot of learning, a lot of emotion and a whole lot of sitting on your butt with a baby barnacle connected at all times. During that time I couldn’t shake this recurring thought: This is so hard, how will I ever get through this?
Like every never-ending phase of parenting tiny humans, it did in fact, end.
I continued to stumble my way through motherhood and against all odds, that tiny baby flourished into a wild toddler. He learned to climb and jump in the same week, effectively taking 5 years off my life in one foul swoop. I chased him for a solid year, said ‘no’ constantly, and perfected my snack time bribery game during his Anti Car Seat Phase which is as fun as it sounds. At the end of 12 hours of parenting, I would flop on to the couch, exhausted, knowing I would do it all over again the next day. This is so hard, how will I ever get through this?
Toddlerhood gave way to a preschool age and I have to admit that in some ways, it did get easier. Now that the physical aspects of carrying, chasing, rocking, nursing, climbing on, lifting him were over, motherhood suddenly got a lot more verbal. Am I teaching him the right thing, answering his questions in the right way? This vibrant kid full of so much energy and curiosity–how do I not screw him up?
We dropped off paperwork at the school where he will be starting Kindergarten. Another milestone. He’s ready, I’m ready. Well, I like to think I’m ready anyway. I’m good at pretending but I’m sure I’ll be the crazy, unstable mom ugly crying in the parking lot on the first day. Letting go is hard. I think back to how I cradled that tiny baby five and a half years ago like he was a fragile egg and it was my only job to protect him, forever. I smirk now as the mother of a big kid and I realize that baby is more like the bird inside of that fragile egg: wild, independent and destined to fly away.
This is so hard, how will I ever get through this?
Watching my first baby grow up is the most bittersweet thing I’ve ever done. There’s something special about that first one: The Experiment Child. The one that will teach you how to eat your words and turn everything you believed upside down. Swear you wouldn’t ever cosleep? Think again. You’ll never make a different meal for a picky eater? He’ll show you. Get judgey when you saw kids in all character clothing? He will request a Minecraft lunch box, backpack and socks. Basically, if you believed you would parent one specific way, be prepared to do the exact opposite. First babies don’t care.
As he grows, I hope. I hope I am enough of the mother he needs. I hope he’s kind. I hope he’s a good friend and stands up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. I hope he loves to learn and stays curious throughout his whole life. I hope he’s happy. I hope he knows he’s loved.
It does, indeed, go by so fast.