The moment you have a baby, people who are “experts” in the care and handling of infants become utterly convinced that if not taught properly how to hold your child you will, in fact, drop it.
Sane, rational adults will caution you to “Watch his head!,” as if only their careful tutelage is what prevents you from allowing the baby to snap clean in half.
Later, as we become comfortable in our parenting roles, we ourselves will become resident experts on the holding of our infants saying with hard-won authority: “No, no she doesn’t like to be held like that, do it like this.”
Fortunately, only first-born children really have to suffer the fate of being guinea pigs to the holding lessons. With second and subsequent born children you just wing it, presuming you haven’t broken the first one.
Accordingly, it seems just a month or so ago that I sat, utterly alone, in a hospital room entrusted to hold and gaze in wonder at the wrinkled, red countenance of our second baby — our newborn daughter.
About a week ago she wriggled her fat, dumpling thighs out of my grasp, stretched her arms wide and toddled across the living room to land in a heap at her brother’s feet with a gummy “I did it!” grin that split her face wide.
A few days ago she blew out the candles on her third birthday cake and announced that she was old enough to ride a “big girl” bike.
Fifteen minutes ago she tugged my arm toward kindergarten — so eager to get inside and get started in “big school.”
I remember watching her blond pigtails bounce as she sailed away from me, all the while I was wondering, with a lump in my throat, “Where did the time go?”
And now — today — in the blink of an eye, she is 10 years old. Ten. We are now at double digits and double the years since we stood outside the kindergarten.
Just yesterday she was so new, so wee and so utterly dependent on me. Today I’m wondering yet again (and with yet another lump), “Where did all that time go?”
This year, she wanted new “sports gear” for her birthday. For Christmas it was an MP3 player. It is so cliche, but wasn’t it just last week we were bringing home a pink princess playhouse to surprise her?
A few weeks ago, my 11-year-old niece casually mentioned to me that she and her “boyfriend” broke up. Seriously, just the thought of my daughter saying those words nearly sent me into an anxiety attack.
I mean, our daughter is only 10, but about 20 minutes from now she’ll be 30 (and thus officially old enough to date, according to her father).
I don’t think I’ve gotten over that just yet. Although she’s still just as sweet as pie and we have not yet reached the eye-rolling stage, she often calls me “Mom” instead of “Mommy” now.
Recently, it hit me with a start that I can’t remember when I last carried her. I mean there must have been a time when I picked my “baby” up like I always did and then set her down again. Never realizing that I would never do that again.
One minute I am making dinner with my daughter on my hip and thinking: “When will I ever get my hands free?” The next I realize, barring an injury or natural disaster, I would have no reason to carry her anywhere.
I still remember the feeling standing in my kitchen and realizing those days are really over. Then I got sad all over again.
Last week I went to her elementary school as a “room mom.” As I was scooping out ice cream it hit me: My daughter is in fourth grade and this is her last year in elementary school. Next year she goes on to middle school.
Her older brother has made it abundantly clear the super cool of the middle school aren’t really down with having their mommies hand out cupcakes and punch. No matter how badly the mommies might want to.
I want to run up to young mothers with their babies and tell them, earnestly, that they need to enjoy it. Every moment. Don’t be in such a hurry to get it over with. Don’t be in such a rush to get it all done.
I know it’s hard and exasperating and yes, sometimes even boring but trust me, you won’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
One moment you are contemplating your newborn and worrying about the most basic issues of childcare such as how to hold the baby. In a blink you are wondering how you will ever learn to let go?