Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Paradox of Life with Little Ones

There's a curious paradox in life with babies and toddlers... daily life can seem to drag on and on because there are so many mundane and repetitive tasks we must perform, yet these little people grow and change so fast that you can almost see time flying by.

Gigi will be two and a half next month. I was home with her for most of the first 18 months of her life, while my husband finished his degree and I took as much time off from my program as they would allow. I did a bit of work here and there, and worked as a teaching assistant for one quarter, but for the most part, I did the SAHM gig. Much, much more on that experience later. For now, let's just say that I became VERY familiar with the mundane aspects of baby and toddler care.

I'm not quite sure when the sensation of time flying became almost physical, but at some point the changes I saw in my daughter began to provoke a bittersweet reaction in me. I was thrilled to see each development, particularly those major milestones like sitting, rolling over, crawling, cruising, walking, and talking. But somewhere along the way I started also feeling that sadness at what had passed. I also discovered that it was all too easy to forget what she had been like before, until a photo or a video reminded me of the baby she used to be. Now, when I scroll through the photos in our online albums, I am flooded with the memories and overcome with missing the baby she once was.

Not that I would go back. Nope. Well, maybe for a few moments, to hug that baby, that 13 month old, that 15 month old, that 18 month old. But this parenting gig is a one way journey, and it's true that it just gets better and better. When I was an overwhelmed new mother trying to get through each day, I clung to this promise, and it soon proved true. Now I wait with anticipation to see who my daughter will become next, though I'm all too aware that something will be lost in that change.

Like the adorable way she said things when she started to talk. I've forgotten too many of the funny pronunciations already (if only I had started blogging already, because somehow I can fit this in, though I never found time to journal and barely wrote in the baby book). Let's see, there was "Duh-Duh" for her lovey, a Dora doll. Now she thinks it's hilarious that she used to call her Duh-Duh. And "lo-lo" or "yo-lo" for yogurt, "dih-doh" for dirty (for awhile her favorite pasttime was to point out dirty things on the floor and elsewhere, much to my chagrin), and "moo-moo" for cow. Milk was quickly dubbed "num-nums," and she still says that, though she can and will say milk as well.

I remember when she started to use phrases, how exciting that was. When she started imitating us and calling out "bye-bye, luh-boo" whenever one of us left the house, my heart would swell and break in the most wonderful way.

And then one day she started speaking more clearly. Not only were most of the cute pronunciations gone, but she would adamantly correct me whenever I said a word the way she used to. Now we only have a few cute ones left: "bussybye" for butterfly (I love that one!), "dyepoahr" for diaper, and "cahyns" for crayons. Just two weeks ago she would say, "I wanna play Play-Doh in the baby hi-da-da-chaiw," but this week she clearly says "high chair." Soon she'll say everything correctly. She's a voracious learner of new words now, like most kids in this toddler-becoming-a-preschooler stage.

When she was a baby we would sometimes do a double-take upon first seeing her face in the morning, because it often seemed like she had changed overnight. It happens less often now, but when it does, the difference is even more dramatic. Will it always feel this way? I have come to understand that children are not so much beings as 'becomings,' always changing, always growing, never the same. I can't wait to see who she'll become next.

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