This weekend has been an oasis; I got to spend it with with my 1-year-old niece. Besides enjoying her for herself (and she is a thoroughly delightful little baby), I love the flood that comes in of till-now-forgotten memories from when Miss G was that age. I got drunk on that sweet baby-head smell, the tiny finger-pointing with exclamations of "Da! Da!" for everything she sees, the angry scream insisting, "I am NOT tired! I do NOT need this nap! I mean it!" I wallowed in every squirmy minute.
I am a baby junkie, always have been. I'm good with them; I get them and they get me. Older kids, not so much. Not even my own. I was great from Miss G's birth through age 6 or so, and then I suffered a sharp, inexplicable decline in patience and energy. Some parents say "Oh, it's so much easier as they get older" but I just don't see it. My parenting life has gotten harder over the past 5 years. I mean, sure, there are obviously some easier things. Less on-duty time. More independence, both for the kids and for me. I don't have to change diapers or clean puke off the favorite stuffed pig. And yes, babies are a lot of work. But it was my life; I stayed home full-time and raised her for the first year, and absolutely loved it. It doesn't feel like work if you're reveling in it.
It's also disconcerting seeing my own daughter so big next to this little peep of a baby; I so clearly remember her being that age herself. It could not possibly have been a full 10 years ago. Not when I am getting vertigo from the photo-perfect images of Baby G transposing themselves onto Peep as I watch her splashing in the bathtub. There's just no way that much time has passed. Surely Miss G can't be more than… 4? Okay, 6... at the outside.
Everyone warned me how fast this would go. It's not that I didn't believe them, but I just didn't know it would go this fast. Milk-spilling fast, falling-off-a-bike fast, roller-coaster fast.
The era when Miss G was little was the last time my life was clear to me. These days, I am juggling so many balls at once, and I don't feel I'm focused fully on even one of them. I am a mom, wife, and step mom. I work full-time, I manage our household finances, cook dinner, and pack lunches. As for parenting, the lessons I try to teach the girls are so much more complicated at this age. It's all about ethics and heartbreak and trying to explain why lipgloss is acceptable on an 11-year -old but lipstick is not. I'm trying to teach them to be self-confident enough to be honest with themselves and those around them, and self-assured enough to walk into rooms of strangers with heads held high. This is way harder than potty training (and I say this as a mother whose daughter dragged that process for an insanely long and stubborn time).
I have now become one of those titans of understatement who says, "Oh, enjoy these times! They go so fast!" To all you parents out there with little kids: Cherish this. You cannot imagine how quickly you will move from hating midnight feedings to wistfully missing those still, sacred nights with your child nestled against you.