Have you ever looked at your crying, runny nosed, unrelenting, needing ‘who knows what’ baby and felt like time was standing still? Like you were stuck in an unending merry-go-round of feeding, changing, cleaning, carrying, repeat? I felt that way many times 18 years ago. Some days I thought I’d never get through it. I was miserable and my new son was an uncommunicative alien who was unreasonable and sucking the life out of me.
I’d been on the fast track with my career in a very powerful, rapidly expanding National communications company as purchasing manager. The money, benefits and four weeks vacation time was great. I was proud of my job, my abilities and my company. I’d worked my ass off after graduating to go from a very small assistant position to this amazing dream job dealing with upper level execs and million dollar contracts. It felt great and I didn’t feel the need to rest after 60 hour work weeks.
Let’s go back a bit more:
As a teen living on her own at 17, I decided on the following five goals for my life:
In that order.
What I didn’t realize, could never have anticipated, was that the fifth goal would be the most life altering. And frustrating. And fulfilling. Having a baby to look after at home felt to me like stepping off of a moving sidewalk and slamming into a brick wall. I had no idea how it would affect me. I’d dealt with the conniving, underhanded and sneaky world of corporate politics and suppliers. I’d navigated – successfully – the dating scene finding my best friend and partner swimming in the ‘fish’ laden sea. I’d bought a house and owned more of it then the bank did. None of that prepared me for Thing 1.
Being a person who had to be good at communicating to achieve success at work, I was not prepared for the adorable, fussy, fascinating and totally illogical creature Thing 1 was.
I realize now, 18 years later, that there were SO MANY good days. It was just impossible to appreciate them while I was in the thick of it. I had several favourite times of the day. Naked time for kicking was great fun for both of us. Those chubby little limbs kicking, eliciting a surprised look on his face then bonking his fist into his nose in excitement. Bath time in the little tub on the bathroom counter – how he loved the warm washcloth on his face and head. His mouth would form a little ‘o’ when we dripped water on his face, fists would wave around.
Then there was the sleeping issue – we managed to train him to only fall asleep in our arms. Oops. Ferber-ized at 9 months. Not a good time. He was a holdout and dragged that experience out longer than was healthy for my marriage, (visualize hubs holding me back from going in to ‘save’ the tortured, screaming baby.) Thanks kid.
I remember Thing 1’s first time in the bouncy seat in the doorway. As soon as he realized the reaction he was able to achieve by kicking at the pile of pillows under his feet he was off and bouncing like a crazy fiend. Much of life has been like that for Thing 1 – cause and effect.
Mostly good thoughts now. 18 years ago though I thought I was going insane. I had trouble adjusting with this new boss. He was irritable, demanding, hard to anticipate and as soon as I’d figured him out – he’d go and change everything. He wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom on my own or ever take a shower in private. He gave me no guidance at all on what he expected me to do to succeed at this job. My daily goals ceased being SMART and became just about getting through the day until hubs got home from work. Well, at least the drive was good. And the pay – one little smile made everything worthwhile. Sort of. OK today I think it was a great payment system. Actually, smiles are still pretty awesome rewards to get.
This week, Thing 1 celebrated his 18th birthday. He’s begun his 19th year. He’s mastered the art of getting to sleep on his own, even though his bedtime is way too late in my opinion. He bathes himself now – quite successfully from the smell of him, (and the amount of water he uses.) He doesn’t use that bouncy seat anymore – at 6’4” it wouldn’t be prudent, but his does drive all by himself. And of course, no more naked time – that’s ok since the chubby baby leg creases disappeared long ago.
We celebrated the birthday with a group of his closest friends this past weekend. Baseball, BBQ, swimming and more baseball. They gathered for his birthday but it was also one of the last times this group will meet up to celebrate their youth, freedom and the incredible, shiny bright potential filled futures stretching before them as they head off to their respective universities and colleges.
There will be weeping, but I’ll try to hide it in front of his friends. It’s a bittersweet time wanting desperately to hang on to this alien life I created and still haven’t completely figured out, but knowing in my heart that this is what needs to happen next as he plots his way towards his own goals.
Time doesn’t feel like it’s standing still anymore. Today, it feels like too soon tomorrow will bring ‘moving in’ day and we’ll leave him there at his school, far away from the safety of “us”. I long for those golden days of being the centre of my baby’s universe. Of his helpless dependence on me to make him smile. As unprepared as I felt to bring him into this world 18 years ago, I feel like I am equally as unprepared to set him free now.
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