Starting to Understand

One of the more maddening things people say to parents of small children is some variation of, “Enjoy the moment!” “Seize the day!” “They’re small for so short a time, enjoy it while it lasts!”

Now, I’m generally a polite person, so I usually say something along the lines of “okay!” or “yeah, I’m doing my best!” and what have you. But, at least when I had one baby, I was usually thinking something along the lines of, “Do you even remember at all what it was like to have a baby?” Parenting is so much harder than anything I’d ever done before, that I couldn’t do too much to control my desire that it just be over quickly. People would say, “It goes by so fast!” Uh huh. Sure. More like, every single day goes by so slowly that when a whole month is done, I’m so shocked that time managed to pass at all that it seems way faster than the eternity I was sure it was going to be.

Well, baby #2 is giving me a slightly different perspective.

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I enjoy M so much. My little Dot. Her giggles, her noises, her first words, every new thing she learns. So far, familiar. But I started noticing: when the time came to be looking for milestones, or stages, or things to mark with your child’s growth – which I had studied to memorization with N – With M, I had forgotten all of it. I had no idea what was supposed to be happening when. I remembered no cows milk or honey before one year, but for the rest I was content to guess. I chalked it up to being more relaxed with my second child.

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Then one day, I was looking back at pictures of N when she was M’s age, and I realized – I don’t remember her. I don’t remember what she sounded like. What she smelled like. What she did when she was learning to play. Learning to eat. I took ten thousand pictures, but that sensory memory of my cuddly bald baby is already more distant than I thought possible.

Now, that’s partly because N’s babyhood was a really insane season in my life. I was a full-time graduate student, we were living on a ghost of a shoestring, I was discerning a call to ministry. I spent most of my days at home with N, and gave her a lot of devoted attention. But life was complicated.

It’s also partly because my memory of who N was has been subsumed into the current reality of who she is. She’s a tiny wiry force of nature with a massive vocabulary and a bottomless fount of desires. She’s sweet, orderly, compulsive, willful, thoughtful, sharp, and busy busy busy. She’s the same person she was two years ago, but also so much more than she was. She was a complete human person then, but with agency has come complexity, in exponential leaps and bounds.

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Brave explorer.

 

Exploring the frozen river, very carefully, on a weirdly warm November day when the snow half-melted.

Exploring the frozen river, very carefully, on a weirdly warm November day when the snow half-melted.

But it’s also because, she was a baby then. This is now.

M is a baby now. She’s here. All the time, when she’s not sleeping, she’s right there. And I know now: I will forget. I will forget what this is like.

So yes. I’m eating it up. I’m savoring her baby-ness.
Her impossibly round features, but delicate expressions.
Her intense frowning brow of concentration as she uses thumb and forefinger to pick up a piece of corn.
Her dive-bombing attempts to eat my nose.
Her desire to be held at all times, especially when sporting her rosy teething cheeks.
Her deep baby chuckle, contrasted with her high, soft attempts at speech.
The way she says “dadadada” when happy, and “MMAAAMMAAAMMM” when she’s mad.
The times she catches her sister’s eye across the dinner table, and they both tilt their heads to the side and dissolve into giggles.
The day she discovered how to bang two cups together in the bath, and was so pleased with herself she laughed every time she did it, then had all three of us banging cups together by the end.

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I have no less than five books of knitting for babies. I have very little hope of knitting most of the enclosed patterns for my own babies, as M is already into her 12-month things. But my one bit of Christmas knitting is for her.

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Meet Elmer the elephant. From Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren, a book so beautiful I have flipped through it many times for the sheer joy of it. Elmer is an honest-to-goodness vintage pattern, from the 50s I think. No one would be designing like this these days, with the above-shown insane number of flat-knit pieces. I loved it. It was really different.

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And the yarn, which I brought with me, was some old sock yarn from Mother Martha’s stash. So this is a little bit from Martha, to Martha. This warms the heart.

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The sweet moments of having a baby, I’ve decided, are not unlike catching a sunset. You take the picture because you can’t help yourself, you really want to preserve some of this incredible moment for the future. (Not that I get on anyone’s case for taking pictures. It’s their life, and petty criticism is attractive on exactly nobody.) But really, a sunset is a gift for right now. The fact that it is only for a moment is part of the enjoyment, even though that knowledge is a little like sadness. It’s also a little like looking forward to heaven.

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(Ok, so this is a sunrise. It’s hard to miss sunrises here, since they happen at 9.)

You’re worth it, baby. I wish I could communicate to the whole world what an overpowering joy it is to be your mommy. But I can’t, so I’ll just store it up in my heart.

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6 thoughts on “Starting to Understand

  1. SchroodleMom says:

    Well written; I relate to every word. When an ernest older lady would tell me to enjoy them while they are young and tell me that the years go by so fast, I would respond, “Actually, I think they go by just right. I certainly would not want the years to go any slower!” I used to look at myself in the mirror with baby in my arms, and try to memorize what we looked like. But of course it is a fleeting, useless gesture…..except that I know at least I made the effort.

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    • Rebecca says:

      I know that exact feeling… I wish I had more pictures of me and the girls together, as if that will help me remember what it’s like to snuggle them when they are tiny.

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  2. Tracey Russell says:

    This is a beautiful reflection, Rebecca. “a gift for right now” is really resonating with me. Blessings from Pittsburgh.

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  3. Kathy H. says:

    I’m one of those persons who always says to “treasure the time”, since it has been so hard to remember my days with my own girls. So now as a grandmother, I’ve been so determined to savor every moment. But with my youngest grandson turning four, I am now looking at his baby pictures and thinking anew of where all that time went. My only answer is to keep treasuring and enjoying what they are today. Each day we spend with them will forever be special.

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  4. […] finally did it. When Evenstar was bound off, I had nothing else going. M’s elephant (which was my only Christmas project, hooray!) had my undivided attention. Christmas was still […]

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