You know how there’s all kinds of unintentionally obnoxious things you say about parenthood before you actually become a parent? You don’t mean to be so oblivious, but you really just don’t know any better, so you say things out loud you really should have kept to yourself, and if you’re lucky you forget you ever said them, but if you’re unlucky not only do you remember you said them, but other people remember too, so you kind of spend the first couple of years feeling and looking kind of like an idiot, and although ideally everyone finds the fumbling and the cluelessness kind of endearing, in reality I suspect that the amount of grace offered likely depends pretty heavily on just how obnoxious you were before parenthood happened to you. At any rate, I think the whole process repeats itself when your first child becomes a teenager. And probably again when they leave for university, and again when they have THEIR first child. Probably it continues until you die, this whole speaking-authoritatively-about-things-you-know-nothing-about thing, but that’s a depressing thought and thankfully not really my point.
My point is, however, that one of the things I thought about parenting is that I wouldn’t be the sort of person who spent a lot of time dwelling on how quickly time had passed, how Ellie was just a tiny newborn and now look at her, she’s practically a grown-up, where did the time go, etc. It’s not like I VOWED to not be that sort of person like you vow not to feed your kids refined sugar or let them leave the house in a skirt that short; I didn’t have a moral objection to the idea or anything, I just didn’t think that was the sort of mom I’d be. But as it turns out, I am that sort of mom, and it has been a little awkward to adjust to the idea. There has been some crying.
Ellie seems to go through peaks and valleys development-wise, where she’ll be pretty latent for a month or six weeks, just hanging out and doing baby stuff, and then all of a sudden she’ll have a week where she learns to do 100 different things, and I start picturing dropping her off at kindergarten and begin weeping quietly to myself and negotiating with her for a reprieve from all of the changing. Not a full stop, of course — I mean, I understand at least on an intellectual level that babies getting bigger and learning things is kind of the whole POINT of it all — but just a hiatus longer than a few weeks. A couple of months ago, she managed to figure out how to wave, clap, and pick up Cheerios all within 48 hours. In the past few days, after spending a very long time preferring to locomote via rolling, she figured out how to crawl. One minute she couldn’t crawl at all, and the next minute I have to start closing the door to the playroom lest she escape into the hall when I look down at the computer for ten seconds. Then she learned how to give a high five, and how to pull herself up on her toy box. Every time it happens, I want to put a stop to it all, camp out in that exact spot for a while, get used to this new little person. But babies! They do not care for this idea. They have their own schedules and they adhere to them. Babies are sticklers for deadlines, even if they’re arbitrary.
I started a book a couple of days ago that my friend Anna recommended when I was pregnant but I never quite got around to reading at the time, because I was too physically uncomfortable to focus on a book and too emotionally fragile to encounter real stories about having to deal with an actual baby. I’m glad I’m reading it now, though, because it’s a wonderful book. It’s a journal of writer Anne Lamott’s first year with her son, and it’s hilarious and sad and incredibly clever. I’ve been moving through it at a pretty good pace, and I realized that soon the baby in the book would overtake mine, age-wise, and I’d be looking forward rather than looking back. I found that kind of sad because part of what I have enjoyed so much about this book is all the nodding I’ve been doing, all the relating to her stories, all the commiserating about the hard stuff and the celebrating when it’s over. I’ve been cheering her on as she got through all of the various milestones we’ve already been through, then thinking as I got closer to the end, the baby in the book is almost a year old! Ellie is still just a newborn. I won’t be able to relate to the next part of the book. Maybe I should put it away until she’s closer to that stage. Except the thing is — and you’ve already realized this if you’re not blinded as I am by baby goggles — there are only two months left in Ellie’s first year. If this year was a book, there would be only a couple of short chapters left, a small enough number of pages I’d probably stay up late to finish them, rather than saving them until the next day. I don’t even know how that is possible.