His little bubble butt fit in the palm of my hand and his tiny legs curled up to his belly from living in-utero for nine months. Although just fed, he opened his mouth like a baby bird wanting more, but then puckered his lips and went back to sleep, his fragile fingers gripping my index finger. Wow, I had forgotten the feel, the smell, and the sight of a newborn.
My nephew and his wife are first-time parents of a pretty baby boy. I visited their baby and their new home for the first time and experienced immediate flashbacks to when my husband and I first began our family. As I cuddled that baby and then toured their family home all I could think about were the memories waiting to be created in this cozy little house.
I was so excited for them and I wanted to ramble on and on, but what new parent wants to hear an old parent ramble on and on about when they were first-time parents? Not many.
If I could have rambled, I would have told them this fresh house with new cabinets and painted walls will soon become an oversized canvas for scuff marks created from push toys, mini-stick hockey games and pirate swords swinging. The neutral colored grout will soon sport the colors of Crayola’s hottest new mix: Carnation Pink, Burnt Sienna and Jazzberry Jam. The smooth corners of your walls will become jagged and dirty.
This destruction may irk you at first and out of frustration you may be tempted to say something silly, like, “Can’t we ever have anything nice?” Yes, you can, just not right now.
That pristine bathroom, not a piece of clutter in sight, will burst with color, with baskets filled with primary colored plastic bath toys, crayon soap, and Disney wash clothes. A Disney-themed potty training seat (yes, Disney, again, get used to it; they’re marketing geniuses) will sit nearby, and a little step stool so he can reach the sink and brush his handful of tiny teeth will block the bathroom cabinet for the next 10 years.
That clear pathway you have from the back hallway to your kitchen? It will become a battle zone. You’ll stub your toes on wooden puzzles, Tonka trucks and LEGOSs every time you trek that familiar path. Do me a favor and don’t get mad when the pain shoots through your baby toe. Instead, chuckle. Kick the toys aside or toss them into one of the many baskets and plastic bins you’ll have situated in every corner of your house. When he’s old enough, make him clean it up for you.
My kids were 2, 4 and 5 when a friend visited our home for the first time. She sat down on the couch and quietly surveyed her surroundings. I was close to deciding never to invite her back when she paid me the highest compliment: “Your house looks lived in.”
Indeed it did, with books, puzzles, dolls, coloring books, craft supplies and toys strewn about, and scribble-scrabble drawings taped to our refrigerator, cabinets and sliding glass doors. Our house was a safe, loving home, where our kids could grow, learn, play, make mistakes, and create memories. The memories weren’t always Brady Bunch quality, but that’s okay. Those memories created a mosaic family life – colorful and varied.
That little nugget of a baby, who fits so perfectly in the palm of your hand, will one day stand taller than you. I won’t bore you with the typical “Oh, it’s going to fly by so quickly! Enjoy it!” because at times you won’t enjoy it. At times life will feel like you’re living in a slow motion video, a bad slow motion video. You’ll ask yourself, because you’re too ashamed to say it out loud, My gosh, will this colicky, teething baby ever shut up?
I’m here to tell you, he will.
Every moment is fleeting, so don’t get bogged down in the parts of parenting you find yourself muddling through. Nothing lasts forever. Not the crying, not the temper tantrums, not the endless colds and not the ear infections. Everything passes eventually, the bad and the good. It’s all a blessing, so try to be present for all of it.
And when you just can’t be present for all of it, or when you’ve reached your breaking point?
Sneak into the bathroom, shut the door, turn on the shower and sit on the toilet lid. Pretend you’re taking a really long shower and can’t hear anyone knocking at the door. Keep some good reading material nearby, or do what I did on my really bad, can’t-get-no-relief days: take a nap on the floor and use a rolled-up bath towel as your pillow. Honestly, it was the best nap ever. Ever.