Friday, November 06, 2009

Just like you can't store sleep ...

I had an epiphany today.

I was thinking about how everyone is telling Amy to get lots of sleep now, because she soon won't have much choice in the matter. We all give this advice ruefully and ironically: you can't store sleep, obviously, and while it's nice to head into labour after a nice nap rather than after an 18 hour cupboard cleaning binge, in the bigger picture, the best night's sleep in the world while hugely pregnant offers little or no benefit much after the first 12 hours of wakefulness.

Sleep is great. You'll miss sleep. Very true. But you can't stock it up now, in a time of plenty, for use later.

It's like that with babies, too. Amy, get used to people also telling you to "enjoy this time" because "it's all gone so fast." Enjoy the mustard poops and the toothless smiles and those couple of days of funny caveman reflexes in your baby. Drink it in! Savor it! Don't waste a minute of it! These days will Soon! Be! Gone! Forever!

Well, I guess that's true: look at me! My kid used to be a newborn and now she's nearly three and a half. Time has, in fact, flown and, from the rate at which she continues to grow, the prospect is remote that she will return to her original squally if adorable nine pounds.


Looking back, I find that I cherish the memories that I have from that time. Of course I do.

However. I also find that I do not regret one single instance of handing her to her father and running out to Starbucks to read the paper. I know, from reading it in my own damn archives, that I agonized about leaving her, for wanting to leave her, for wanting time to myself for even 20 minutes of sweet blessed alone time. I felt guilt-ridden and preemptively regretful: this time is never coming back, I fretted, gnashing my teeth and wringing my hands.

But here's the thing: Looking back, I don't really feel that I missed anything. I actually do not have any regrets about my daily 90 minute respite, date nights with Pynchon, going back to work when she was 6 months old. We did not inaugurate a pattern of dis-attachment that I rue to the present day. No. Actually, we grow closer every day. So all the tooth gnashing, the fretting, the hand-writing? That was wasted emotional energy. To be perfectly frank, I don't even remember what I was so freaked out about--I'm just reading it here.

In all honesty, I am full to overflowing with memories of Munchkin's life: how could I not be? What possible reason could I possibly have for preemptive regret at frittering away the experience of her early years if my heart and my mind and my blog and my photo albums are so so very full?

This morning, when I called her down to breakfast, Munchkin cried and cried because she wanted "Mommy to come plaaaaayyyy ponies with meeeee!" and I felt, of course, guilty. Because she's not going to be three forever, you know! Soon she'll be out of ponies and into whatever tween crap they play on the Family Channel--not Treehouse--and what then? I'll never get this chance to play ponies with her ever again, WAHHHH!

That's when it hit me: you can't store up time with your kid. You can't, that is, stop time by gorging on moments until you burst. And that's okay.

We've probably all always really known this, deep down. Memory is fickle and incomplete: baby has hardly been home a week before we see a photo from Day One and have the sudden shock of realizing "I don't even remember that happening." But we do not lack for memories, nevertheless. And when that newborn disappears and you start counting his age first in months and then seasons and finally years, rather than in hours and days and weeks, you will have, instead of that newborn, a baby! then a toddler! then a preschooler! who is yet even more lovable and loved that the child of those moments that have slipped passed you.

I love and cherish the memory of my newborn, of my 6 month old having her first taste of mashed banana, my 14 month old doing her first Frankenstein walk on the checkerboard floor of our old kitchen, my two year old in her first splash pool. But I don't need more of that--I still have so much more to come.

My memories are full and rich. My daily life is full of moments and durations and glimpses of love and time and experience. It's okay if I skip a pony session at 8am one Friday morning in November 2009. I played ponies at 6:45 am, actually, and many many times before that and surely many more times to come, most of which I don't and won't remember. But that's okay too.

I guess my epiphany is this: manage your time in its natural daily rhythms, its gives and takes, its us-time and its me-time, without always a wary eye on the potential for future regrets. Because keeping our eye on Gone! Forever! means you're too worried to actually just be, in the moment, or out of it, as needed.


slouchy said...

Perfect. Just perfect.

Mimi said...

I can't resist adding: that photo is from the day she was born. Yup, with a full head of hair, the size of a 2 month old, and ALERT.

Omaha Mama said...

Beautiful. And man! I've misssed you. :0)
My mom is great at saying things like, "I've enjoyed every decade more than the last." I'd like to think I could be great at that too. Because motherhood? Just keeps getting Better and Then Better!
I heart this post.

Jenifer said...

Not really the day she was born?! None of my babies looked like that until much later. Actually, she has more hair there than Sweetpea currently does...

So what you are saying is that I should go on my "girls weekend" tomorrow overnight and understand it all works itself out just fine?

I guess I do know that, I just really miss those baby days, with such an ache sometimes and Sweetpea is only 9 months old!

This post is so, so good.

Mamalooper said...

Feeling guilty about 20 minutes at Starbucks - it goes along with.the.debate.about.pacifiers! All those things that you agonize about with your first baby.

Lovely post.

In hindsight, my only "Amy"advice would be just to take it as it comes - you can't control it, you can't really imagine it, and you can't manage your way through it. When it's easy it'll get harder again and when it is hellish, it'll get easier too.

Beck said...

The Boy looked like that the day he was born, too! Big, hairy and alert.

I think parenting was easier before photography and videos - childhood just slipped away without visual evidence that once they were so very, very small. This is my sad theory, anyhow.

Cloud said...

I needed to read this right now, since just yesterday, I looked down at my 5 week old while she was nursing and had a little mini-freakout about how fast she is growing. We plan to stop at two, so she will be my last newborn, and I started to get all maudlin about that. Nevermind that I actually like the later phases more than the newborn one!

My big piece of wisdom, learned slowly and painfully during my first couple of years of motherhood- it is all just a phase. Every damn thing that drives you crazy. Just a phase.

Kyla said...

This is very good advice. I wish we could slow time down a little sometimes...drink it in and keep it just a little while longer. Sometimes, though, I'd like to hit fast forward, say through 4.5 years of poo changes. LOL.