Watching your kids grow
Sentimentality. A little sentiment can be a sweet addition to your life: the ability to conjure up the whole lovely vacation when you look at a single pretty pebble picked up from a hiking trail; a fond remembrance, a wave of affection, a wisp of nostalgia. Nothing wrong with any of that, in fact, an enrichment to a contented life.
If you can’t find your dressing table because of the trinkets, if your kitchen is buried under kid art, if your dining room a mere tunnel through stacks of treasured mementos… You have a problem.
It’s about balance and perspective.
It’s September, and with it the wave of back-to-school posts. Among them, the “my baby just went to school for the first time” posts. And among them, among the sweet posts filled with anticipation, excitement, and a little wistfulness, were the FULL-ON PANIC posts.
“My baybeeeee! My baby is leeeeeeaving me! My baby is — heaven forbid! — GROWING UP.”
Goodness, ladies. Get a grip.
Wistfulness is understandable. It’s a rite of passage, a demarcation of the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. So you pack their lunch with special care, you dress them carefully, and maybe even take a few pictures. Wistfulness and possibly some fear. You watch them pass through the doors of the school (or the school bus), and hope that the institution that is swallowing them is kind, that their time there is happy. Not everyone has a happy time there. So yes, wistfulness and some level of anxiety and protectiveness, certainly.
But full-on panic? Reams of words deploring the child’s absence, wondering how mum is going to cope, and mostly, always, consistently, ruing, decrying, resisting, mourning the fact that their baby is growing up.
Um. Growing up. Well, yes. Isn’t that the point? The idea of having a baby my whole life long fills me with horror (and also immense respect for parents of handicapped children, for whom that may be their practical life reality.) Do you really want to be the parent of a baby for the rest of your life?
School is an obvious example right now, but you see this all the time, mothers (have yet to see a dad write one of these posts) writing about all sorts of stages in their children’s lives, and every time the reaction is fear, resistance, regret, and denial that their baby could be growing up, changing. (And ultimately leaving them? Is that the root fear?)
Wistfulness is fine. A little sentimental nostalgia, recalling that moment you held their sticky body for the first time… knowing that is gone, never to return. Who wouldn’t sigh a little sigh for that? There is nothing as soft as a baby’s skin, nothing as delightful as the bubbling river of baby giggles. The fat little thighs! The dimples instead of knuckles on pudgy fists! Awwwww… So sure, a little gentle wistfulness for the speed of life. But why choose to get stuck there?
So, savour the wistfulness… and also, here’s a thought… how about excitement? Anticipation? Optimism? Sure, with each stage there are things you leave behind. (Not always a bad thing, say I, as not-so-wistful memories of a screaming colicky baby and months of bleary-eyed exhaustion swim through my head.)
But along with the things you leave behind, there are things you’re gaining. Always. With every stage come new things to treasure and savour. The Panic Moms seem oblivious to that. All the phases and stages, all the passages… they’re just bad. Bad, points of regret and sorrow and grieving.
And really, if that’s how you see it, if your child’s growth is one long chain of points of mourning for the things lost… why on earth did you have a child?
Thing about kids, see, is that they GROW.
They grow up, they learn to do stuff, they move on. It never stops. One thing after another. One accomplishment after another. One new discovery, another broadening of their capabilities, an enrichment of their worlds. It never stops.
Another, and another, and another thing…
to marvel in.
To take pride in.
You mourning mummies? I suggest a paradigm shift. You, and possibly your children, will be much happier for it.