It’s nine o’clock am. The TV keeps annoyingly telling me to touch my head, shoulders, knees, and toes. My half-drunken tea is cold and my baby (well, he’s not really a “baby” anymore, having reached the toddler stage at sixteen months) is glaring at me.
He stands defiantly. His pudgy finger points to the tag dangling on the side of my mug. “Up.”
In our world “up” means “pick me up” and “I want that” and “bring me that way” — you get the picture. In this scenario, his “up” is a demand for the tag. Luckily, he is not one of those toddlers that tries to shove everything in his mouth, so I oblige.
He squeals, snatches the tiny piece of paper and runs away from me, huddling by the corner of the couch. He turns his new precious over carefully, babbling words foreign to me (think Gollum, but a cuter version). As I watch him study the shape and texture of this newly discovered item, I stop and realize something: Theo is a person.
Ok, yes. Clearly I know that my son is a human being. But, he hasn’t always behaved like a full-blown person (albeit a little one). In the past year, he has learned to communicate his wants through movements and sounds. He has an affinity for certain toys and environments. He talks, walks, and feeds himself. Even his facial expressions are on par with my own. Somehow he sailed into this next phase of life, leaving me in his wake. How the hell did all of this happened so quickly?
If you are a parent, you may have heard many people tell you something along the lines of “they grow up so fast.” And let me tell you, I did not believe it that first eight months. Days and nights blurred. Tempers flared and anxiety reached new levels. There were times when I absolutely, 100% regretted becoming a mother. I remember looking at my son, at the end of his two-hour screamfest, and feeling so utterly helpless. Defeated. Tired. Angry. Paired with teaching high school English, I was surprised how many times I said “I can’t do this,” but somehow managed to continue moving forward.
And yet, for how slow those days felt, I cannot deny that all those people were right. It isn’t that the time moves fast (because let’s be real, when you are going on less than three hours of sleep a day, nothing moves fast), it is more of a feeling that one day you will take a step back a realize the shift in your child. That somehow he or she went from a fully dependent baby to an independent toddler (well… somewhat independent).
I am not saying that you don’t remember all of those learning moments. For me, there was Theo’s first steps. His first time picking up foods by himself. His first pairing of the word “dog dog” and our Labrador, Riley. The first time he pulled himself up onto the couch. The moment he started to talk to his teddy bear. I will never forget those moments as they were major leaps in his development. But now, when all of those slivers of learning combine, I see a new person in front of me and I cannot pinpoint just when that happened.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me sad, because I know I will unawareingly move back into the day-to-day routine, recognizing and celebrating those tiny victories, only to stop a few months down the line and realize that Theo has once again transformed into a new person. And I will once again be left in awe, smiling at the progress of my little boy, while weeping at the time that has unsuspectingly passed us by.
Now, as I watch him run over to me with the tag in his fist, pointing it to the ceiling like a victory flag, I take a breath and remind myself that this is a moment — one of thousands — to cherish. And I cannot help to laugh as he tosses the tag into my cup, clapping excitedly, as it slowly sinks to the bottom.