When I was pregnant with Scarlett I remember saying more than once that it would be nice if we could just skip the whole baby phase altogether… To move right on into the fun stuff. I know that sounds terrible, but it wasn’t one of the stages I was looking forward to the most, having been through it all before.
When I was pregnant with Matthew, I looked forward to having a tiny baby in the house more than anything, just like any new mom would. And it was wonderful. But then he started walking and using the potty and cleaning up his own toys and saying things like, “I love you, Mommy,” and without warning, toddler hood totally swept me off my feet. I fell in love with it more and more everyday. With every new thing that Matthew learned to do, my life as his parent got easier and with each new understanding he made about the world around him, the things that we did together became wildly more fun. Like crazy fun. Like telling each other totally juvenile jokes and laughing like we had no sense at all kind of fun . Like falling in love kind of fun. Of course I’ve always loved my little boy, but once he hit toddler hood and could actually hold a fairly intelligible conversation with me and could make me laugh by doing more than just looking cute, I got the first sense of who he actually was. And it was like falling in love with him all over again in a brand new way. Like I wasn’t just loving my son anymore, I was loving Matthew, and there was a very cool difference between the two that was so much fun to explore.
After finding out how much easier and how much fun it all turned out once you got through all the diaper blowouts and laundering of thousands of outfits covered from neckline to crotch snaps in baby slobber, babyhood started to seem like just kind of a means to an end. Something to enjoy as much as possible, but essentially still just something to get through.
When I wanted to have another child, it wasn’t because I missed smelling like a trendy mix of baby powder and spit-up all the time or the evenings that centered around a five minute sponge bath and pictures of a loud, wet, angry infant. Not that those things aren’t wonderful in their own sentimental kind of way, but I was looking forward to the big picture moments. Hearing hysterical shrieks of “I DID IT” bouncing off the water the first summer she’s able to do little bits of anything at all on her own in the pool; Watching her eyeballs turn to saucers, glowing in the holy gleaming light of a towering Christmas tree the week after Thanksgiving; Witnessing her brain explode before my eyes the first time she goes darting clumsily into the open sand of a beach, with ice cream dripping clear down to her stomach and no one in any rush to clean her up. I couldn’t wait to watch another piece of my heart unfold into a beaming little spirit of it’s own.
Then, Scarlett was born. And one afternoon while Matthew was napping, I tucked her into the arm of the sofa with a thick blanket and a small stuffed giraffe and I read her a couple of stories. They were the longer ones with the gorgeous, hand-painted illustrations, the ones that used to be my favorite to read to Matthew before he grew too impatient to make it through all thirty large pages of a story without dinosaurs or bridges collapsing in an island with magic, talking trains. When the stories we over, she was working hard at falling asleep. She was thumbing the mane of her small giraffe, and I noticed very small things about the way she was growing; the kinds of details a toddler is just never still enough to let you see for very long.
I noticed that her movements are becoming more lucid and her expressions are more intentional now. I noticed that she was squeezing things and bringing them closer to her, snuggling soft, fluffy materials and biting down on them, exploring her sense of touch, and clearly enjoying the way it all felt. I noticed that when her pacifier tumbled down her chin, she didn’t immediately cry out for help. Instead, she synchronized the use of both barely capable hands to ladle it back up toward her mouth, she dropped her jaw and fished around until her tongue met the rubber and she was able to pop it right back into place. It was small, but it was probably the very first thing she’d ever accomplished on her very own. And I was watching it happen. Slowly and easily. The way that only the parent of a very small baby can watch their child grow.
And I don’t know that I would want to slow time down, and I’m not saying that I look forward to the fun parts any less, but I’m beginning to remember why I was in no big rush to leave this part behind.