Letters from a Learning Mother

Room to Grow

Bringing a child into the world seems like a piece of cake compared to the task of assisting that person in becoming the amazing human being he was born to be. Still, there’s something about being woken up by a happy baby flapping his arms each morning that makes every day feel like a fresh start, regardless of how short the night may have seemed or which challenges we faced during the days and weeks before.

I never planned on establishing a morning routine, but I quickly fell into the habit of starting my day by turning towards my smiling son, grabbing his little hands or stroking his cheek and exclaiming, “Hello, good morning!” in a happy, groggy voice.

As I greet my little boy, I study his face and often note that he looks older and wiser than he did when he fell asleep the night before. My husband and I have even remarked that he always looks a bit different after taking a nap – as if simply closing his eyes was all it took for him to go through another growth spurt.

My son is still considered a baby at five months, but he has far surpassed the days of doing nothing but nursing, resting and filling his diaper. He sleeps much less during the day now and uses the extra time to work on his army crawl, chew on anything he can get his hands on, and laugh hysterically at his parents when we fake a sneeze or play peekaboo with him.

Sometimes, I spend minutes at a time just staring at him, attempting to memorize every detail of who he is in that moment, knowing that my little baby is continually fading away as a little boy begins to step in and take his place.

I felt a strange sort of tug on my heart a few weeks ago when I pondered the fact that I am the person who knows my son best, yet I am constantly surprised by his ever-changing reactions, likes and dislikes. It even took a couple of months for me to be able to say that I felt like I truly knew my son, until my husband mentioned that Ellis is still getting to know himself, too.

Just because my son falls asleep in his stroller when we go on walks these days, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll do the trick tomorrow. I know that for a fact, because when Ellis was a newborn, the hairdryer always calmed him down if he was crying or squirming on the changing table. Now, there’s nothing that gets him more wound up than when his Papa or I dry his hair after giving him a bath. It looks as if he were trying to make snow angels as he flaps his arms, kicks his legs and lets out little squeals that I can’t quite decipher the meaning of.

Similarly, I cooked up a big batch of baby food last week, and around lunchtime each day, my curiosity rises as I wonder if Ellis is going to scarf his meal down or gag on every bite. He switches between the two for no apparent reason.

Ellis’ bedtime has also changed drastically over the course of his first five months of life. My husband and I went through a phase where we would crash into bed together around midnight after spending what felt like forever taking turns rocking our exhausted baby and carrying him around the apartment until he finally fell asleep. Enjoying the luxury of being a stay/work-at-home-mom, I usually didn’t crawl out of bed the next morning until about 9:30am when my son woke up for the day.

Matthis and I experienced the redemption of our evenings and even found a show to watch together every night for a few weeks when Ellis got into the habit of falling asleep before 8pm. He would then, however, wake up at 6am the following day, forcing me to become a morning person for a while.

His current sleeping habits are my favorite. He sleeps from 9pm to 8am, waking only to nurse. I know, though, that there is no telling what the coming days, weeks and months will bring!

I’ve come to believe that babies sleep so much in the beginning so that their parents have the chance to grow into father- and motherhood. The title of Mommy and Daddy are received in a single moment, but the discovery of the details of the identity that lies behind the names can be a lifelong endeavor.

I remember being so thankful that the baby living inside me wouldn’t be able to backtalk or lie to me for the first couple of years, feeling relieved that my husband and I still had some time to figure out some parenting techniques.

When I think about the crazy fact that I spend at least a few hours each day carrying around a 20 pound baby on my hip like it’s no big deal, I feel pretty proud of the seemingly effortless transformation my once-spaghetti-like arms have made.

When I discovered that the little one in my womb was a baby boy, it took a few days for it to settle in that I was about to become confronted with someone likely a little wilder than I am. Something in me panicked as I realized that I would someday be sitting across the table from a teenage boy in puberty wanting answers to important questions he had about things that I have never experienced.

A wave of relief washed over me when I poured out my fears to my husband and he responded with a comforting, “But I have!”

And when it hit me that I will be about 40 years old in my son’s teenage years, I laughed and told myself we would just have to cross that bridge when we came to it.

I’ve realized that I have no choice but to leave room for my son to grow in my perception of who he is. I’ve made it my daily mission to fully engage with him and get to know my firstborn in each and every stage he goes through – never putting him in the box of who he was the day before.

And as my son grows into the person he is a little bit each day, I’m allowing myself to do the same. Of course, who I am at my core will remain unchanged, but I’m continually getting to know who I am as “Mommy” as time goes by. And I’m leaving room for myself to grow, not setting every little thing in stone. I’m discovering the joy in the freedom to change my habits, opinions and tastes and in being unhindered by what others may or may not expect from me – and I’ll do my best to give you some room in the way I see you, too.

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