11.07.2004

In a blink

A dear, dear friend of mine once told me that with every milestone her daughter reached, it made her a little sad. Milestones bring something new, but they also mean having to say goodbye to something we as parents barely get a chance to get used to, much less enjoy. In all honesty, I thought it was an odd comment at first. I had just given birth a few weeks beforehand. Weren't milestones to be celebrated, written down in baby books, photographed, videotaped and talked about endlessly?

Five months into this beautiful trip called parenthood, I now understand. As soon as Buddy Boo reaches a magnificent milestone, another one threatens to come charging around the corner to bully the new great experience out before the celebration can sink in. And in all honesty, it is a bit sad. Do I really remember his first real smile? He smiles all the time now. When was his first real laugh? I remember how old he was, but I can't remember the exact moment. When did he first find his hands? The way he gnaws at them and tries to grab everything in front of him, it feels like he's always known he has control over his hands.

This is one of those things that everybody tells you, warns you will happen, that is actually true (unlike the many other smile-and-nod-but-immediately-disregard pieces of advice): enjoy every moment, because they grow up in the blink of an eye. I was at a fundraising gala last night and someone repeated that phrase. It was perhaps the 567th time I had heard it, but lately I have truly been feeling their words and nodding in agreement. And yes, my friend HL was right: it is a bit sad.

Boo had his first taste of solids other than rice cereal tonight. Sweet potatoes. He devoured them with a devilish little grin, wide eager eyes and happy hands. When A took the food out in its single serving bottle he said "he's not going to eat all of this." Well, Boo almost did. We got a bit frightened though and stopped him before he could gobble the last two bites. What it was that made us scared, we have no idea, because there's nothing written that says a baby can't finish one serving of baby food during the first feeding. We both held back, even though he pretty much ate the whole thing. It was almost as if those last two little bites represented the final steps into another phase that we just weren't ready for, but Boo obviously was.

That's another amazing thing about all of these milestones: babies reach them whenever they are ready, but they don't bother to ask us parents whether or not we are ready. If they did, I would venture to guess that most babies wouldn't be crawling or cruising until they were two or walking until they were three. Nothing really prepares you emotionally for the next stage, and there is always, inevitably, a next stage.

It is so hard to say goodbye to the baby you know so well each time he changes and grows into the child, the person, he will become. Sometimes my emotions teeter-totter between wanting to hold on to the moment and looking forward to the next; I think that I can't wait to hear Boo say "mama," "dada," and "no, dog, no" but then I know I will miss who Boo is now. We'll miss trying to make up stories about what we think he is saying during his endless nonsensical babble. We'll miss watching his features focus fiercely as he attempts to speak our language. We'll miss our baby who will someday no longer be a baby.

So I'm becoming the overzealous mother I somehow feared but knew I would become. I write everything down. I take a zillion digital photos. I break out the video camera for the big moments I know the photos won't fully capture. I talk and talk about every milestone to anyone who will listen. I write, I write, I write. In hopes that someday I can remember all of the different phases of Boo that I had to say goodbye to, so that grown-up Boo can know just how amazingly beautiful and incredible he was in all of those phases. So that when I do blink and Boo is suddenly headed to college, I can look back and see a clear, full picture of the perfection that is Baby Boo.

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