Friday, June 22, 2012

My First Year Lessons

I wrote this when my daughter turned a year old but waited to publish it until I had reflected a little more. So this is nine-month-old writing, but still true. :)

Lord, babies, am I right, people? They are intense. They need, they want, they frustrate and they delight. Having had one now for a year, I need to write down things I've learned to try to do, so that I don't forget them if my baby ever has a baby.

1. Enjoy every stage. It is so tempting to miss being pregnant, when our baby was quiet and portable. And as crazy as it sounds, I miss that miraculous newborn smell. By the same token, right now, I can feel myself get impatient for my baby to be able to talk, and I dread her toddling towards stairs. When these feelings come on, I always try to remind myself that my daughter is fun and interesting as she is now - self-feeding, giggling, scooting and loving her parents more than anything. And this moment will come and go. If I make an effort to live in the present, I will never look back and accuse myself of wishing my kid's childhood away.

2. It gets ... better? We haven't hit the terrible twos yet. We are in the golden age. Newborns don't do much but cry, eat, sleep and politely request diaper changes (ha ha, they do not request politely at all). We smugly tell parents of two-year-olds that our baby is a perfect eater and sleeper and explain exactly what they are doing wrong (we do not do this at all). Starting around 6-8 months, a golden age happened upon the Pragmatic Idealist household. It was glorious. Fun, sweetness and light. Things will decrescendo eventually, but I was told by everyone that the night feedings and exhaustion eventually give way to this Pax Bambina. And they were right!

3. It kind of flies by, but it kind of doesn't. The first six weeks with a new baby felt like a year. I was exhausted, recovering from things I won't go into on a public site because no one who reads this would want to give birth after viewing it. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, because after our false starts, we could hardly believe that we had produced a real-live baby. So we were kind of in shock of it all. The first six months seemed long. Things she learned to do in that time frame were grow a little, smile, coo and sit up. We definitely had time to process these changes, no "blink and you'll miss it" aspect to that period. Things really didn't start picking up until six months. All of a sudden, she was babbling, crawling, squawking, scooting, standing, and making friends. After six months, the changes have seemed unbelievably fast and awesome.

4. Just relax and listen to advice. Almost all of it is well-meaning. Sure, some of it is incredibly dumb. Some of it is awesome. Some you may think is dumb at the time but comes in handy every once in a while. I remember my mother letting my baby sip from a glass - baby was about five months old, and my mother declared, "this baby likes to drink from a cup." Ridiculous, I thought. No five month old drinks from a cup. Three months later, what do you know? She disdains the sippy cups. They are for babies. She preferred to take the lid off the sippy cup (what I mean is wait for me to do it) and take a big swig of water, letting it dribble down her chin and clothes and essentially waterboarding herself. It was summer, so, she has a good time with it. She's grown out of that phase, but I wouldn't have thought to give her that moment of fun without my mother's idea.

5. Take time for yourself, your partner and friends. At first I thought, jeez, everyone takes their baby everywhere, if I don't I'm a bad mother! I still take her a lot of places, but I think it's important to spend the resources, to the extent we have them, to go out sans children from time to time. Like, more important that I thought it would be. When I was expecting, Mike3550 and I were all, "Date night once a month!" That didn't happen. But we do go on dates occasionally, and schedule some child-free lunches and dinners with friends. As she grows she will become less dependent on me, and will have her own social life - so in the meantime I need to cultivate and nurture my own friendships. This has been a huge challenge over the first year, so sometimes that nurturing happens over phone and by email. But I'm determined to have my own adult life that exists outside of parenting.