Friday, June 19, 2009

Treasuring Moments

Yesterday morning, I popped in a CD I recently received at a baby shower. The CD includes a wide mix of songs by all sorts of artists, “Sweet Baby James” (James Taylor) to “Mockingbird” (no clue on the artist, but I’m sure you remember it). While listening to these soothing songs during a rough morning commute, I found myself getting a little teary-eyed thinking about Smyrna Baby, and all of the adventures my husband and I are about to embark upon as new parents.

It suddenly occurred to me - it really and truly is all going to fly by. If I am already almost halfway through my pregnancy and cannot believe it, how are we going to comprehend our newborn infant growing into a toddler, then into a young boy/girl, into a teenager, young adult, etc.? How do you not freak out at every little thing he/she does (right or wrong), keep your patience intact, not lose your cool all while trying to take in every moment and enjoy it – all because before you know it, they will be out of the house and living their own lives? Now, I know I am getting a little ahead of myself, but I would have to assume that you parents out there can somewhat relate to what I am saying.

A few hours after getting to work, I received an email from a family member. She forwarded me an article that Anna Quindlen, well-known Newsweek columnist, wrote and advised me "to enjoy your kids and love their own uniqueness!!". I thought her email couldn't have been more timely.


Anna Quindlen
Newsweek Columinst & Author

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief..

I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults,
two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the
same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with
me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that
make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower
gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I
like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets
and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick
soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the
baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through
the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me
now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on
sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood
education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where
the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I
suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.
What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the
playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they
taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then
becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that
it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds
well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a
stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his
sibling at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put
baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-
up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs
because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent
this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing.
Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research
will follow. I remember 15 years ago pouring over one of Dr.
Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he
describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and
active. I was looking for a sub-quiet category for an 18-month old who
did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs?
Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he
developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last
year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me,
mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the 'Remember-
When- Mom-Did ' Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the
bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed.
The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare
sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came
barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I
responded, 'What did you get wrong?'. (She insisted I include that.)
The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through
speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window.
(They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the
Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while
doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly
clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.
There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a
quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and
1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked
about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing:
dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little
more and the getting it done a little less. Even today I'm not sure
what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life.
When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would
become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they
simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a
thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be
relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over
the top.

And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I
like best in the world who have done more than anyone to excavate my
essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound
and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out exactly who the experts were.

Newsweek Columnist - Anna Quindlen:

1 comment:

  1. well thanks for making me cry! This article makes me want to have many more babies! LOL! I will say that it goes by so fast, but only now that I am home with them every single day am I now enjoying it MORE! Before it was definitely trying to get from one thing to the next like she mentioned, but now I soak it all in and we play all day long! So even though it goes by fast, as long as you remember that from time to time you'll remember to soak it all in too! You guys are going to be great parents and smyrna baby is one lucky baby!