I remember the onslaught of advice as clearly as I remember the feeling of labor pains. Well-wishers encouraged me to “take lots of pictures”, “savor every moment”, and of course, “watch out; they grow up too fast”. And now, I have found myself thinking and, sometimes even saying, these cliched comments as I hold my neighbor’s beautiful, blue-eyed baby or talk to my sister about the ups and downs of her pregnancy. Because what I did not fully realize back then in the blur of newborn days is that, whether I want to accept it or not, those statements are painstakingly true.
As we were walking up our steep 1939-built basement stairs, I reached for Linnea’s hand, “No Mama, Nea do it by herself. By herself, Mama”. Her repeated comment stung the most, as if she had to clarify her self-reliance. She might as well have declared she just got a tattoo or a boyfriend because in that instance, I was sure my surprise and sadness would have been the same. The baby I birthed, nursed and wore in a backpack was fully merging into an independent little girl, and I was not sure I liked it…
Linnea’s age is exerting its influence in ways other than her confidence to take on tasks. A few months ago she declared dinosaurs “scary” after seeing a coloring book with their images. Picture my surprise then when that same little girl expresses sheer excitement about the opportunity to go with her daddy to see their skeletons. L.E. went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for the first time on March 6. Photo after photo filled my phone’s memory as I gazed over each one during my lunch break. It was in some of those pictures that it hit me just how far she has come in just over two years. This realization–that I am sure hits every parent at some point–had its proof in one particular text from my husband: Leaning on a sign with long-legs and a tired stare, I saw no baby.
Just this weekend, she decided she no longer wanted to be rocked before her afternoon nap. I looked at her with a tinge of disbelief, and asked if she was sure. She was. I, on the other hand, was not.
When I listen to one of her stories and respond with “Ohhhh”, she insists, “Mama, don’t say ‘Ohhhh’ [insert mocking tone her]. Say ‘Yes’.” Say yes? I began wondering when my toddler daughter began correcting me. I don’t remember there being a chapter in any of my parenting books about how to deal with this milestone.
As much as I want to go back to the days of endless snuggling in the rocking chair, I know there is a lot of of sweet mixed in with the bitter pieces of these memories:
Even though, Linnea did not want my help going up the stairs, she wanted me to play with her as soon as we got to her room. Even though, she looked like such big stuff in those pictures at the museum, Ben said she held his hand firmly the whole time they were there. Even though, she did not want to be rocked, we cuddled in her little bed as she moved the hair out of my eyes and gave me an unsolicited kiss. And even though she corrects me, we get some pretty big belly laughs when we make a joke out of it now.
The truth is, like her newborn days, these days are numbered too. And I will hold onto the sweet as long as I can knowing just how quickly these moments may fade.
Note: This post was inspired by the writing of a good friend, Meg. She recently posted a post entitled, “The Hardest Phase“, which got me thinking about how quickly everything changes.