I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the seasons of a childhood. How kids are so fast to move on to the next stage just as you get your footing in this one. How your struggles constantly morph while your joy expands in unexpected ways.
How there is no real time to analyze and reflect before you are full-body dunked into the next phase.
A good friend of mine gave birth to her first child last week. She told me her son screamed his head off for four straight hours the first night they were home from the hospital. And I remembered back to when Ryan was brand new. Oh yeah, that was hard.
She told me how he wants to breastfeed all-the-livelong-day. And I remembered. Oh yeah, that was painful.
She told me how every little sound he makes at night wakes her because she’s afraid something is wrong. And how an absence of sound makes her worry that he stopped breathing. And I remembered. Oh yeah, that was scary.
She told me how he pooped all over the scale at the doctor’s office. I laughed really hard and I remembered.* Oh YEAH, that was disgusting.
When I think back to those early newborn days, much of it is a blur. Hell, most of his first year is a blur.
I think it’s because for most of that time, we were sleep-deprived and in a constant state of worry over his health.
Since we left Arizona, Ryan has had only one cold. Nothing else. Have I even mentioned that here? The allergies that filled him with congestion nearly every day of his life, the respiratory issues, the endless ear infections? All gone virtually as soon as we landed in Pennsylvania.
I almost never think about it these days. His health was something that ruled our world for two years and worried and frustrated us beyond belief. I wonder how many times we said, “If only he wasn’t sick all the time…” ?
But once the health issues cleared up, we shook ourselves off, mentally checked it off our list and moved onto the next parenting challenge.
Passing certain childhood milestones feels a little like conquering a level in a video game. You survived, so in hindsight, it wasn’t that bad. You take a second to pat yourself on the back, but then almost immediately, some new ferocious enemy comes at you and you are forced to refocus.
And because you have zero experience with this new adversary, it seems harder.
I admit it; I’ve been a little sour about age 3 so far. The aggression, the unpredictability, the attitude. I have felt at times that maybe I just don’t have the skill necessary to beat this level of the game.
But the insanely cool thing about parenting is that with each new challenge and frustration, you also get something that spreads joy and pride through every square inch of your body.
My friend told me yesterday how her week-old son smiles slightly in his sleep; that already he can hold his head up well; that he makes direct eye contact.
Her pride reminded me of the first time Ryan rolled over and the first time he laughed. How he called me “Baba” before he could say “Mama.” How he started walking on Christmas day.
One minute you’re stressed about midnight feedings; the next minute you’re stressed about how he plays with others at school. One minute you’re bragging about neck control; the next minute you’re bragging about all the letters he can identify.
Lately, around here, it has felt like the things to be frustrated with have piled up while the things to be excited about have collected a layer of dust.
Then at bedtime last night, Ryan reached up on his toes to show me how he can turn his own bedroom light on and off. I’d never seen him do it before.
(Flip) See?! Now it’s dark in my yiving room!!**
The pride threatened to explode out of me. I had to tell someone.
I texted my friend. The one with the newborn. Just in case her little guy decided to keep her up all night, just in case she found herself feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, she could think, “but hey … before I know it, he’ll be turning his own bedroom light on and off!”
Because with parenting, there is always something to wistfully remember, there is always something to conquer and there is always something to look forward to. And surrounding all of it, there is joy.
**The day he stops referring to his bedroom as his “living room” is going to be a very sad day for me.