Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stopping, Looking, and Not Thinking: How I'm Learning to Love The Present

“How’s she sleeping?”

“Oh, you know, okay. She wakes up quite a few times to eat, but she goes back to sleep pretty easily.”

“Well, just you wait. When they’re two it’s so much harder. You have no idea.”

Thanks. That’s encouraging.

I have some version of this conversation often. It always ends with a “just you wait” and a horror story of some impending misery waiting just around the corner. “Just you wait until she starts cutting that tooth—then she won’t sleep at all!” “Just you wait until she can walk—then you won’t get to sit down!” “Just you wait until she learns to talk back—then you won’t think she’s so cute!”

The other side of the “just-you-waits” is the “you’ll-wish-you-had-this-backs.” It goes a little something like this:

“How are you?”

“Pretty exhausted. The baby kept me up all night.”

“Oh, well, enjoy it while you can. You’ll miss this time when she was so little and cuddly. They get big so fast.”
And I catch myself participating in this to various degrees. When I want to just have a margarita, for God’s sake, and she ate an hour ago so I know she’ll need to nurse in another hour, and I don’t have enough milk to spare for a bottle so I have to turn down the drink, I’ll think to myself, “When she’s a little older, this will be easier.” Or when she was a newborn and couldn’t hold her head up, I’d be carrying her cradled carefully in my arms as I walked around the house looking at the heaps of laundry and dishes, thinking to myself, “When she can hold her head up, I’ll have a free hand, and this’ll be easier.”

Or when I pick up my favorite outfit, a blue and brown onesie that she looked so adorable in, and find out it’s way, way too small, I’ll feel a wave of melancholic nostalgia that nearly knocks me down.

Between the just-you-waits and the you’ll-wish-you-had-this-backs, I sometimes feel like I’m missing out on the right-nows.

And the right-nows are pretty amazing.

Right now, my daughter giggles at pretty much everything: her feet, the cats, the dog, silly faces, peek-a-boo, tickles, toys. Right now, she can scoot on her belly like a little lizard, and she uses this newfound skill to snuggle up next to my leg when we’re sitting on the bed together. Right now, we can spend a lazy Sunday afternoon cuddled up as a family for a late-day nap, and our baby will wake up babbling between us as she ponders or imagines or whatever it is she’s doing.

So, I’ve made a pact to be more present-focused—at least about this, at least as much as I can.

I won’t wish her stages away, and I won’t mourn the time that’s passed. I won’t hold up tiny little outfits she can’t fit in anymore and cry. I won’t watch her throw the mushy carrot across the dining room and wish she was old enough to eat without making a mess. I will donate the clothes; I will clean up the carrot. Above all, I will enjoy this while it’s here.


  1. Yes.

    Also, I heard the just-you-wait crap all the time when I was enjoying Noah's infancy, but so far EVERY part of witnessing his life has been delightful, because he is a real, individual human being, not some abstract and threatening succession of 'stages' and 'phases.' (I don't mean every day has been EASY, of course, but that we've never had a period where those people were even remotely proven rational or correct.) He's five, so I know the same people would just say knowingly "oh, well, then he'll be a hellion as a teenager," but they can pretty much bite me. The smug smile may be the worst part ...


  2. I love your attitude...enjoying the moment you're in right now is the best way to enjoy being a mama, because otherwise you miss out on so much and forget to appreciate your child in the here and now. People ask me how my son is sleeping, and I say, "Just like a newborn baby should be." I know from experience that it goes way too fast, so I'm not going to wish away even the difficult stages, and I try to have the same attitude with my 6-year-old.

  3. This is really great life advice for both parents and non-parents. I always feel happiest when I take time to enjoy my present life than when I obsess about the future or dwell on the past.