My sweet Ari Grey, you are a big girl.
There are always these moments, in parenting, especially in the first year – these moments that hit you like a truck, slamming into you. Even though you’ve seen your child day in and day out, watched her like a hawk, observed every tiny thing she did or said or ate or tried to eat when you weren’t looking (pine needles, grass) – yet somehow, suddenly, your child seems so big. So much noticeably, exponentially bigger than even a day before. How could it happen that quickly? we ask ourselves. How can there be such a huge change, overnight?
I had that moment, last week. Every day, I drink in your babbling and your wriggling and how dirty or clean you are, how much you’ve eaten, how much you’ve slept – and still, one afternoon, sitting on your quilt with you, watching you scramble and wriggle trying to get – my cell phone, the remotes, Kitty’s bunny tail, anything you weren’t supposed to touch, I had that moment – wow, she is such a big girl, suddenly she is so much bigger and more developed, and how did this happy so quickly?
This past month has been a month of developments. You have always been clever and alert, interactive and full of personality – but in this last month, it’s been like you’ve hit hyperdrive. I’ve learned by now to be patient with how fast or slow you hit certain milestones. I feel like we as parents can create all this pressure to achieve, achieve, achieve! Like we can prove our baby is better than other babies because they learned to pull up faster, or said words sooner. We make it a competition among ourselves – when I think, really, the impulse comes from fear. We take pride in our children’s achievements because it means our child is healthy, normal, smart – they are clearly the apple of our eyes, and when they learn a new skill, especially ahead of schedule, we are reassured that we are doing a good job.
So, I’ve tried not to push you or rush you. If other babies were doing X, or learning Y, I was happy for them, but I didn’t let it make me feel bad. I’ve seen time and time again that you’ll learn on your own time, and while I can foster an environment for you to test out that skill, I can’t make you learn it before you’re ready. So we didn’t rush you to learn to crawl or pull up or speak or wave, or whatever – I am certainly not in a rush for you to grow up, or become mobile and a little wrecking ball around the house.
But this last week – BAM! You went from awkward scooting to a real army crawl, and pushing up on your hands and knees, ever closer to that real, tabletop crawl. You will wriggle and scoot and you will find a way to move towards whatever you want. BAM! After we’d been waving at you for months, it clicked and you waved at us, with more and more frequency as days went on. BAM – out of the blue, you clapped. I wasn’t even clapping at you, I was gearing up to head out the door, dressing in a hurry by the armchair as you sat on your quilt, and you just – clapped. Without cue or urging. Just because you could.
You went from being pulled up by one of us to pushing up to your knees to needing less help pulling up on our hands to pulling up on your own in your crib, not once but twice.
You leveled up, as your video game loving Papa and Uncle DJ-Clap-Your-Hands (Nick) would say. We see these stages with babies, the Newborn phase into the Not a Newborn Phase, when you’re still a very small baby but not that only eating-sleeping-pooping, precious little sack of squish baby. You’ve been in the Baby phase, for the past couple months, just a loveable, chubby baby learning skills and growing, but still largely immobile, largely containable, largely content to sit in a lap and just be a baby.
Now you are my Big Girl. Now I see glimpses of the toddler you will become, as I am already quickly brushing anything you’re not supposed to have well out of reach so you can’t scoot and grab it. Now you are three-fourths of the way through your first year. Your first birthday is no longer a distant day, it’s becoming a reality, I’m literally making lists already because I know the days will roll into weeks that will quickly roll into months, and BAM, again! That day will be here.
As a mama, my heart feels bittersweet – as it has from the day you were born. There is nothing that pleases me more than to see you grow and develop, learn and play. Watching your cheerful, funny, and clever personality blossom has been one of the biggest joys in my entire life. But I cannot deny my heart feels heavy to know the end of this first, magical year of your life is coming to a close. This first year has been miracle after miracle, life-changing lesson after life-changing lesson. Mamahood has asked more of me than anything else ever before, and while I may not always (or usually, heh) been perfect – I have tried to rise to every occasion with as much grace and patience and fortitude as I can muster.
Babies are miraculous, I’ve said this before. There’s a reason people literally stop in the aisles at the grocery store, or come over to us in public, just to speak to you, tell us how beautiful you are. I will miss that, I admit. Babies are these pure bundles of goodness and joy in the world. They are too young to be sullied by the hardships of the world, they are not jaded or mean – they may require a lot of work and effort, but it is because they are so innocent, so innately good. I think the first year of life is so magical because even when we are exhausting and frustrated, we know – we can see in front of us – that we are doing good work in the world, trying to cherish these little babies, these little humans, and make them thrive – set them up to have the best chance at doing the most good in the world. We must be humbled by being trusted with this gift.
I admit this current phase is one of the more difficult ones we’ve had in the past nine months. You are still your cheerful self, but you grow frustrated now. You know you have the ability to move, but you get frustrated that you can’t move as much or as far or as fast as you’d like. You get frustrated when we won’t let you have the remotes/grass/phones/cat hair you so desperately want to shove in your mouth. Now that you see opportunities to explore the world, you’re wild to do it, and that makes you a little wild, a little more rambunctious, and your papa and I have been a little slow to adjust to it. This change happened so suddenly, that I don’t think either of us were prepared – emotionally or physically – to give up our sweet, easy-going, little baby who was so content to sit for long periods of time and play contentedly with her toys, so long as Mama or Papa were nearby. You’ve been sleeping a bit more fitfully, you’re not even sure you want to do for more than a few seconds, and you’re just trying to figure it out.
But we are learning, we are adjusting. We continue to realize as soon as we feel even slightly complacent, confident as parents, we will slam-bam into the next phase, and have to scramble to learn or invent brand new coping and management skills. We can wish to slow down time, we can regret that we only get these fleeting hours with you and that you won’t stay a little baby for just a little bit longer, not forever, just maybe an extra couple months, another year – but at the end of the day, we are just happy that you are happy, and healthy, and clever and funny and loving. And you are always those things, my darling.
You are my big girl, Ari Grey, and your papa and I wouldn’t change that for the world.