After the initial shock has worn off, I find that I am anticipating a brief return to the life of floppy newborn snuggles and baby delights. While knowing that I will have a teenager and a threenager at the same time is daunting, I also know how very, very quickly those intense, tiny years fly by. Soon I will blink and this bonus doodle will also be potty trained and beginning to read and able to buckle his/her own car seat. I know how quickly the years pass because I have already flown through them once. As a seasoned traveler, I am less anxious this time around (please remind me of this when I re-enter the potty training years.)
There is a temptation, I think, for those of us through those years, especially those who look on those years through the tinted lenses of nostalgia or regret, to try to encourage new mothers by reminding them of how short the years are. Sometimes those encouragements come in the form of “reminders,” in many and varied poetic form, that babies won’t stay babies, along with an admonition that everything else will still be there when the baby grows up. The result, unfortunately, is that when you’re washing dishes, so the rest of your family doesn’t get food poisoning and die, you hear this poem in your head and feel guilty for not rocking that baby who will be grown so quickly, but when you’re rocking and feeding and walking and bouncing that baby so many times you’re feeling guilty for not cherishing it all in your heart. Not so encouraging in those fragile months of limited sleep and hormonal unrest.
Here is what I know going into the baby years again, that I wish I had known the first time around. Maybe this will help someone walking those sleepless floors, wearing exhaustion and spit up.
The baby years are short, but these aren’t the only snuggles you will have. This completely dependent little one will grow up so quickly you will wonder where it went, but my nine year old mackerdoodle still holds my hand crossing the grocery store parking lot. The cheesedoodle will turn eight in two weeks, and he still wants to start his morning with a mama snuggle before breakfast. I haven’t walked a floor to calm a child in years, but every time I sit down at least one child wants to sit beside me, and rest a head on my shoulder, or a hand on my arm. Yes, the baby years have a sweetness to them unlike any other, but so do all the other stages. This is not the only shot at sweetness.
Yes these years pass quickly, but the beauty of parenting doesn’t pass with them. They won’t always need your hand, but they may still choose to hold it. Soon you won’t be able to carry them to bed at night, or sling them up on your shoulders, but you will continue to carry them in ways too numerous to count. They won’t always call out for you in the middle of the night, but they will still want to tell you about their dreams (real and imagined) in the morning. They won’t always need food at inconvenient times and places, but that bonding over a meal isn’t going away soon. It’s true that “babies don’t keep,” but the love and the beauty and uniqueness of motherhood grows with them. Even those tasks you may feel are sucking away precious memory time will become side by side moments of learning, and chatting, and “soul snuggling.”
Hold the baby, rock the baby, and wash a dish or some clothes, or wipe some dust along the way. This adventure is a marathon, not a sprint.