My baby can stand on his own now. It’s wobbly. It doesn’t last long. But for a few seconds, he can hold himself up without assistance from me or holding onto a piece of furniture. I hate this.
From the outside of motherhood looking in, the achievement of these milestones always looks like a joyous event, with proud parents rushing to grab a camera and cheering on their child in the most animated of baby talk, while high-fiving each other for having created such an accomplished little human. Now that I’m a parent myself, I find that joy is just one small part of the experience.
First of all, there’s the anticipation. Until your child achieves a milestone, everyone you meet will ask you about it.
“Is he crawling yet?”
“Has he said his first word?”
(It was dada, and he says it constantly, because I’m chopped liver, apparently.)
“Does he have any teeth?”
(No, but he’s been slobbering like he’s getting one for 4 months straight.)
I’ve always been competitive, but I try very hard not to be when it comes to my child. However, it’s hard to resist when you’re so fiercely protective of your little one that you don’t want anyone to ever dare to look down on him. When I was pregnant, I started to keep a list of how many of my Facebook friends were pregnant at the same time as me – I reached 70 before I stopped keeping track. So the opportunities for comparison are plentiful. I notice when friends’ children reach their milestones early, and I begin to hope Diego will do the same, so that everyone will recognize how special he is.
When the milestone comes, it’s never as much of an occasion as I expected it to be. Babies are clumsy when learning skills, and often it’s not clear if Diego actually achieved the milestone or if I’m hoping he did. Did he roll himself over or did I put him down in a funny position that made him roll? Was that crawling? Or more of a slither? Or was it a flop? Can he do it again? We didn’t get it on camera. His dad wasn’t home to see it. Maybe I shouldn’t tell people until I’m certain, or until I have proof? I’m proud, but cautiously so. And then suddenly the paradigm shifts. He’s rolling constantly. He’s crawling everywhere. And I realize that the milestone isn’t so much an isolated event as it is our new normal.
At Diego’s first doctor’s appointment when he was 5 days old, they told me he was back to his original birth weight. This was wonderful news, it meant he was healthy and eating well. But I started bawling. I had been so anxious for this milestone, but once it was achieved, I was struck hard with the reality that I could never go back. I had already experienced the smallest my baby will ever be, and he will never be that small again. As he outgrows each new clothing size, I have the same reaction. Newborn clothes, three-month clothes, six-month clothes, nine-month clothes… as I pack them up for storage, I mourn the too-short seasons I didn’t get to savor. I’m not jealous of people whose child is more advanced than mine – I’m jealous of people whose child is still small. I want more time with my baby. He’s becoming a little boy and I’m helpless to stop it. I love his blossoming personality. I know he will be an incredible young man. But I can wait. I want to wait. I don’t mind the anticipation anymore, because in hindsight, it’s the times between the milestones that are the best part of parenting.