Last week, my son turned one year old. I can’t believe it. The passage of time is so much more striking when you’re watching a child grow. As fully-grown adults, we could go years without really noticing ourselves age. I know I’ve looked at pictures of myself from ten years ago and passively thought “Huh, I looked younger then.” But babies grow so fast that it’s astonishing how much they change from one month to the next, let alone in a year!
Celebrating my son’s birthday really got me thinking about how much I’ve learned this past year. If there was one year in which I’ve learned a lot, it’s this one! Here’s a very short list of my key learnings in the first year of being a mom:
1. No matter how many books you read, nothing can truly prepare you for the journey of parenthood. The Baby Whisperer can tell you What to Expect and how to have the Happiest Baby on the Block with the No-Cry Sleep Solution but your baby’s the boss. It is entirely possible that at 3 am, you will be sitting in the dark, mentally composing hate mail to the Baby Whisperer because your baby just doesn’t want to do what she thinks is right.
2. All babies are different... and yet, they are all the same. File this one under the WTF file. This is the reason that mothers sit around and compare notes on what their babies did that week. This is what sends us into paroxysms of anxiety when our five month-old still hasn’t rolled over but our neighbour’s six month-old is playing pat-a-cake.
3. Everyone has an opinion about everything. If only I had a dollar for every time someone said “Maybe he’s hungry,” or “He looks ready for a nap,” or my all-time favourite: “If you put him to bed later, maybe he would wake up later/sleep through the night.” But hey, many’s the time I caught myself giving the same kind of advice to others, so as frustrating as it is, I have learned to accept it.
4. It’s amazing how much time mothers spend thinking about, analyzing, and discussing poop. As one of the only indicators of health in a child who can’t speak, poop is the thing to watch. And sniff. And scrutinize.
5. The human body has an amazing capacity to function on very little sleep. It doesn’t mean we’ll be nice about it, but we can make it by fairly well on just a few broken hours of shut-eye. But just because we can, doesn’t mean we should!
6. Anyone who is able to “sleep when the baby sleeps” should be given an award. As the mother of a really lousy sleeper, I barely had time to pee when my baby slept, let alone try to squeeze in a nap. I admire those who are able to do it.
7. You can really only TRULY appreciate your own mother when you become a mother yourself. Not only do you gain a newfound respect for everything your mother has done, but grandmothers are an amazing source of help and support. They are a shoulder to cry on when you’ve had a rough day and if you’re lucky, they’ll fold your laundry so you can take a nap. And of course, not many other people will happily spend time sitting and listening to you go on about how amazing your child is. My mother and I shamelessly go on to each other about how wonderful and adorable my son is because, quite frankly, we can. And we know that we can’t do it with anyone else so it’s our own little guilty pleasure.
8. All things pass in time. Take the most horrible, sleep-deprived, spit-up covered, poop exploding diaper day and file it away in the banks of your memory because those days will be gone before you can say “Pampers.” When you’re cursing your decision to become a parent, and you’re looking up the phone number of the nearest orphanage, just remember that whatever terrible phase you’re going through will pass. You will forget until your children are 30 years old with children of their own. And when they ask you “Was I like this as a baby?” you have two choices. You can rub it in their face that yes, they were indeed terrible children who never let you sleep. Or you can claim selective memory and let the past become a blur while you tell them, “You know, I just don’t remember having any sleepless nights with you.” I know I intend to remind my son of every torturous thing he did to me as a baby.
I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. The one thing that I can honestly say is that my life feels so much more complete now that my son is in it. I’m also more exhausted than I’ve ever been, with more gray hair and some stretch marks that will never go away. But it’s worth it because there is no feeling in the world like the love you feel for your child. And even though I have no idea what the heck I’m doing, he seems to be growing up just fine! Here’s to another great year filled with more amazing experiences...