Disclaimer: This piece of writing jumps all the heck over the place in terms of time. So bear with me!
Any “Rent” fans out there? I couldn’t help but think of this number and song from “Rent” (how do you measure a year, anyway?) on January 4th, 2018. The night before my son’s first birthday. In a somber voice I said to my husband, Kyle, “Well…that’s it. He becomes a man tomorrow. He won’t need me anymore.”
“It’s his first birthday, not his Bar Mitzvah!” Kyle said, smiling. While I recognized I was being a little dramatic, this milestone had weighed heavily on me for the past year. One year old is a magic age, right? I pictured my son, Owen, having a briefing with me on the morning of January 6th. It would be based on all the information and unsolicited advice that had been thrust upon me since I got pregnant.
He’d sit across from me at the table, in his high chair. “Good morning, mother. Since I’m one now, it’s time we discussed some changes. First, we’re done with breastfeeding. Don’t forget to put cow’s milk on the shopping list. And I’d love a nice filet for dinner at some point this week. Second, I’m expected to have the whole sleeping through the night thing sorted out by now, so our late night and early morning get togethers are done. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. Lastly, I know you’ve been told that the first year is all about forming a bond and love and stuff, but I’m a kid now, so it’s time to get rigid about our schedule and expectations. Also, I’m gonna get real mobile soon and will be physically moving away from you a lot. It’s gonna break your heart. So you may want to start thinking about having ‘another one’, just like everyone’s been hinting at. Ok? Good! I think this went well. You know where to reach me if you have any questions. Now, can you get me some puffs?”
I’ve always been one for annoying nostalgia. A few weeks ago I saw a cringe-worthy Time Hop post from the first day of the second semester of my senior year in college: “Omg last first day of classes! :( :( :( “ Yeah, I was that person. When I was 1 week postpartum, I recall laying on the couch with this tiny, diapered human on my chest. Hormones COURSING through my body. Sobbing uncontrollably. My mom asked me what was on my mind. Through my tears I said, “It’s already been one week! Soon it will be one month, then one year. Before I know it, he’ll be going to school, and then…oh my God, he’s basically leaving for college already!” Cue fresh sobs. “I need to hear something right now!” I proceeded to play “Never Grow Up” by Taylor Swift. What the *beep* was wrong with me?!? It was crunchy sea salt right in the figurative wound. Note: I do not recommend listening to this song unless you need a good cry!
As parents, we hear it all the time, right? “The days are long, but the years are short.” And I’m sure nearly everyone with a child, whether that child is 32 weeks and still in utero or 32 years and married with a mortgage, will attest that this cliché is accurate. I don’t know about you, but this phrase makes me frantic. If the time goes so quickly, am I spending it correctly? Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right things? Is it ok to want time for myself when these precious years go by so quickly? Crap! Now, I’m wasting time worrying about wasting the time! But it’s true! His first year has flown by. As stressful as it was, I find myself longing for 11 months ago. Awake with Owen at 2:30 am. Rocking him, snuggling him, nursing him, and watching the entire Sex and the City series on Amazon Prime. Now I feel guilty if he watches 2 episodes of Sesame Street in one day! What happened? Where did the time go?
Last summer, I was chatting with mom of two, pre-pregnancy friend, and fellow Stroller Strider, Amy. We were talking about all the cool new things our babies were doing as we strode around Burke Lake Park. While this should be a source of pride and excitement, I felt miserable. “It’s just all going too fast,” I said to her. “Yeah, what I always tell myself when I feel that way is…isn’t that better than the alternative?” I took a second to process this, and then finally it clicked. Jeez, Amy! Way to be a Debbie Downer before 10 a.m. While she apologized for being morbid, I knew she was absolutely right! And this exchange really shaped how I view the passing of time with Owen. As opposed to wishing everything would slow down, which is obviously impossible, each moment is an exciting new adventure. How lucky am I that I get to watch this little boy experience the world through fresh eyes and grow and learn and develop? It’s the coolest.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Ya know what’s not the coolest? When I’m at Target with a small, screaming, pooping, pouch-squeezing, hair-pulling, skin-pinching, merchandise-throwing beast. When I have multiple old ladies come up to me in public and say. ‘It gets easier, dear.’ Or when all I want to do is eat some potato chips and urinate by myself, yet somehow I find myself sitting on the toilet with a bag of Lays, handing them out to my toddler and dog. I do not feel lucky or excited or #blessed in those moments.”
Yeah, sometimes the time doesn’t pass as quickly as we’d like. It’s like being in a boring class in high school and the clock says 11:14. You try to focus for 45 minutes and figure it must be time for lunch. You look up at the clock and it ticks to 11:15. My husband often gets a phone call around 4:30 that sounds like this: “Did you leave the office yet? Well what time did you leave? Where are you? Where on the Parkway? Like, did you pass Giant yet? How’s traffic? I don’t care if it’s illegal, please drive faster.” Being a parent is hard work. No pay, no breaks, no manual. Just giving and giving and giving. The time away to recharge and refresh is so important. It’s taken me a year to learn that it is necessary. It is what enables me to be more mindful and present when I’m with my little one.
At our wedding back in 2012, a family friend gave us a tip. He said, “Make sure you take some time tonight to stand together and take it all in.” We took a moment to be mindful of all of our senses. The sight of loved ones dancing drunkenly to “Gangnam Style”. The sound of the trendy K-Pop tune (Heeeey sexy lady!). The unique smell of fresh flowers and sweaty relatives. The taste of Corona (bride’s drink of choice). The feel of my new husband’s hand in mine.
It’s so easy to live in the future. When will she take her first steps? Will he ever be bullied? Will she go to college in another state? Will he find a partner and have kids? Will she find a career that fulfills her? It’s tempting to live in the past, too. It was easier before he could crawl. I miss the days when she didn’t talk back. It was nice when he didn’t mind me kissing him in front of his friends. I wish she still lived at home.
To keep me present, I try to check in with my five senses whenever I need to.
Sometimes I need to during trying times. The sight of my son’s face turning red and his eyes watering. The feel of him digging his nails into my upper arm. The taste of my mouth going dry as I remember I didn’t bring any wipes to the fancy restaurant. And the sounds and smell of an epic blowout. Despite the stress, it does help me stop and see the humor in things.
And when I don’t want the moment to get away from me, when I want to try to stop the clock, I do the same. I notice the taste of the coffee I drank to help me “make it until bedtime”. The whirring sounds of the white noise machine and Kenny Loggins’ “Return to Pooh Corner”. The sight of shadows illuminated by a dim nightlight. The smell of a clean, post-bath baby, as I nuzzle my nose on the top of his head. And the feel of that little head resting on my chest as his eyelids get heavy.
We are modeling for our children and teaching them all the time. However, I feel there is one area in which little ones have much more to teach us: being present. They’re not hung up on imposing deadlines. They’re not replaying the fact that they said “You too!” when the waiter said, “Enjoy your meal.” Because babies and young children don’t have a clock or a calendar. They’re here and now. They’re just…present. What a gift!
** Abbe has been a FIT4MOM LSBWK NoVa member since February 2017 and is a member of our Burke Village.
#FIT4MOM #themotherhoodisreal #strengthinmotherhood#Fit4MomLSBWKNoVa #ourvillageisyourvillage#hereandnow #525600Minutes #oneyearmilestone#whatagift #takeitallin