Milestones are raining down on me. The baby is talking: Mama, Dada, up, agua, boo(k). She is trying to walk, and can make tracks by hopping forwards on her knees, like a little talking bunny. Worst of all, she is turning one. I have whiplash. I feel dazed. I am milestoned (adj) – in a mopey, conflicted and sentimental state of mind caused by babies growing up too fast.
Really, how can my second (and last) baby be turning one already?
Don’t tell Viv, but when she reached her first birthday 4+ years ago, my main emotion was relief. Relief that I’d kept her alive in one piece for an entire year. Relief that she was finally sleeping through the night. Relief that soon, she’d be able to tell me what was wrong instead of just melting down in the car, the stroller, the store—all places where I felt helpless and panicky. As a newbie mom, I felt that way a lot.
It’s different this time. Calmer. Easier. Faster. Too fast. When I compare the baby koala who just wants to snuggle with the 5-year-old giraffe who mostly wants to argue (albeit in endlessly creative and sometimes charming ways), it’s especially hard to let go–to allow the pure-love cuddle monkey to become the complicated kid. But it’s not up to me. (It’s not, right? Just checking.) She insists on growing up.
The ending of this first, precious year with Chloe has reminded me, strangely, of graduating from college—and not just because both involve lack of sleep and cleaning up puke. I loved college. It was the only time in my life when I had freedom without responsibility, which, if you’ve ever had the pleasure, is quite the giddy high. For four years, my whole mission (other than passing grades, whatever) was to connect with all of these smart, curious, open-minded, adorable people, explore ideas, live in the moment, feel my feelings, try on personas, experiment with style, discover music, dance until sweaty, travel anywhere and otherwise figure myself out. I was a lucky brat and I just hope college is still around in 15 years so I can spoil my kids the same way.
Anyway, during my senior year in that utopian fantasy, the real world began to loom large. I became hyper aware of counting down the final moments of a special time slipping away fast. “It will never be like this again,” I sobbed, dramatically but not inaccurately. Because the truth was, it would never be like that again. But it would be other things. Some even better.
That intense happy/sad feeling is here again, as I watch my baby, whom I swear was born just last week, lunge towards toddlerhood. How can she be turning one, when she is my last baby, and I will never get to experience all that heavenly baby sweetness again?
Dave thinks I’m out of my mind. He can’t exit the baby phase fast enough. To him, it’s the year of Dad feeling useless and Mom being cranky and irritable with everyone except the baby. He prefers what he calls the “camp counselor” phase of parenting: games, chores, catch, funny songs and dances, inside jokes, secret donut runs. He and Viv are having a swell time together these days, while I’m home getting high off the smell of Chloe’s fuzzy head. My baby.
Things will never be like this again, but they will be other things, some even better. After all, babies can’t play Yahtzee, ride Space Mountain, climb the Statue of Liberty or watch all 10 seasons of “Friends” with me. There’s a lot to look forward to, I know, but for the next few days, I can’t look anywhere but down. Down at the baby in my arms, while she’ll still let me.