Sometime in the six weeks between when my son was born and when I resurfaced from the foggy depths of handling a newborn, my 2 ½-year-old daughter went from being a baby to a young child.
There were plenty of opportunities for me to mourn the loss of her as a baby: when she turned 1 year old and technically became a toddler, when I weaned her a few days after that, when we moved her from a crib to a mattress on the floor, when we put the mattress on the bed frame, or when she started speaking in sentences with pronouns and adjectives instead of strings of nouns and verbs.
None of these impacted me like I thought they would have. In fact, with each transition, I rejoiced the little bit of freedom and independence given back to me. I praised her for her growth and development, all the while encouraging her in becoming a “big girl.”
But lately, I’ve been noticing things that have placed a pit in my stomach: how the palms of her hands have lost that baby softness and have grown ever so rough from scrambling up playground equipment and catching herself when she falls, how the smoothness of her legs has been replaced by the sprouting of fine, blonde hair, how the sweet curves of her face are beginning to melt away as the baby fat is burned off by the constant running and the constant talking, and how she tells me she’s going to do something all by herself and doesn’t want my help. The final straw was when we began to potty train her and I realized that this was it. This was the last tie to her being a baby—taking away her diapers. Part of me is thrilled, of course, to save money on diapers and to not have to constantly be changing her. But I feel like time has slipped away, and continues to slip faster and faster until all vestiges of my baby are completely gone.
I look at my son, who is 2 months old, and it’s hard, so hard, being a parent of an infant. They cry for no reason at all. They fight naps for sport. They are confusing little black holes of time, energy, patience and sleep. When my daughter was under 6 months old, I found myself wishing for time to speed up, for things to get easier, to have a little more predictability. And once that mantra was in my head, it stayed put. Hurry up and crawl, hurry up and walk, hurry up and talk, hurry up and wean. Anything to make it a little less difficult, more interesting, less time-consuming.
The mantra found its way back into my head with my son. Hurry up and get more stable, more entertaining. Babies to me are nothing but work until they can start interacting with you, until they can show you an iota of the love you have for them. Call me terrible, but babies try my last nerve, and on top of that, they’re pretty boring.
But now I’ve seen everything that happens in the transition from an infant to a baby to a toddler. I’ve seen how quickly it comes and goes. In two and a half years, we’ve gone from teething toys to first trips to the playground, introducing solids to ditching the high chair, transitioning from bassinet to crib to a bed, round the clock nursing to weaning to introducing cow’s milk, worrying about too much poop and now too little poop as we potty train, and first coos to nonstop chattering. In less than three years, she has become a completely different little person, and I’m scared that I missed too much of her being a baby by always looking forward to the next phase.
I feel fortunate to have this hindsight, so that I can soak up my son as a baby. Yes, there’s so much poop. There’s spit-up for days, endless crying and soul-crushingly short naps. But there are huge smiles, sweet coos and visible adoration in his eyes when we stare at each other. I’m going to lock these moments away and not let them slip through my hands. I have my daughter to thank for that.