Something I’ve heard time and time again as mine and my friends’ babies have grown older is the lamenting of time passing. Phrases such as:
“Where has the last 9 months gone?”
“What’s happened to my little baby?”
“I can’t believe he’s growing up so fast”
“Slow down baby”
“I wish I could just stop the clock”
It’s not just friends either, random strangers in the street will say “oooh, they don’t stay like that for long”, “They grow up so fast these days” (by the way has something happened genetically that I don’t know about where they used to take longer to become fully cooked people!?), “Enjoy them while they’re little, it doesn’t last long”, ‘blink and you’ll miss it’.
Now, all of these points are of course true. Babies do get bigger and they do it quickly. It’s kind of the point, they need to grow into big people, not hang about being helpless, wrinkly, pink squidgers all their lives.
But I’ve always felt a bit weird and awkward when on the receiving end of one of these comments because of the tone of them.
They are all heavily weighted with the implication that a baby growing up and changing is a negative thing and they all come heavily laced with a big fat dose of regret and of yearning for something other than what is.
I feel a little bit like a social pariah when I say, I am really, really enjoying my baby growing up.
I love watching him change day by day (minute by minute it seems some days).
I delight in the new skills he’s learning, the subtle nuances he’s developing in his smile, the way his character evolves every day.
It amazes me how he still looks both exactly the same and entirely different to how he looked when he was born and I’m fascinated to see what he’ll look like in the future.
I’m intrigued by what he can suddenly do one week that he couldn’t do the last and I am excited to find out what he can do next.
Don’t get me wrong, he was adorable as a brand new squish. I loved having a tiny baby. But to wish for the return of or mourn the loss of those days I feel does a disservice both to today and to all the days to come.
What’s more, it goes right against two principles by which I try to live my life every day, and that is to both accept what is and to live in the present.
If the passing of time and my baby changing so fast really is distressing to me, the worse thing I can do is to dwell on it. That fact is not going to change, it will always, always be the case. It is part of the human condition and to fight it is only to add to the suffering. Best to accept it and let it go. Sorry, I went a bit zen monk then for a second, but I’m right.
Secondly, if I spend every moment my baby is changing harking back to the moment before he changed, I am not really living in, enjoying, savouring or soaking up THIS very moment that we are in right now. No wonder, then, that time feels as if it is going by so quickly if in our heads we’re always in newborn phase and when we look up there’s a toothy, drooling 9 monther in front of us.
Trying to accept whatever’s happening rather than fight it, and staying present in the moment helps to keep me calm rather than letting myself get caught up in a tangle of thoughts and worries in my head, and with said toothy, drooling 9 monther, staying calm is a definite necessity or all hell really does break loose.
I’m not saying it’s easy to be present. It isn’t. And sometimes the reality of the present, with a screaming big fat lump that rolls over, crawls off, bites everything etc is entirely unappealing versus the sweet little passive bundle we first cradled in our arms (although really? Rose tinted memories there). It’s hard, especially when we’re so tired, and I lose it as much as the next person. But I’ve found a few things that help me, maybe some of them might help you too.
- Take photos. A lot. Every day. Capture every dam moment every day. Every new face he pulls. Every new trick. Record every little babble. Capture it and look back on it often. In fact even better get the ‘changes’ app where you upload a photo every day and it creates an amazing video of your baby’s face morphing from its freshly laid prune look all the way through for as long as you keep it going. Amazing fun.
- Spend time each day thinking of 3 things you are grateful for. It helps ground you in the present and it trains your brain to look for positives rather than do what it’s naturally programmed to do which is to find negatives.
- Practise mindfulness. Don’t be scared, it just means paying attention to the now. Getting out of our heads for a few minutes just to be. You can do this by yourself just focusing on your breath, attempting not to take any notice of the thoughts no doubt swirling around, or you can choose something to focus on to soak up, such as your cute little baby. Or you can go for a walk, do some yoga…anything that gets you out of your head and into the now.
- Spend time with your baby. A given right? But really spend time with them. Get down on her level and play. Just lose track of time being silly, blowing raspberries, studying the label he’s studying. In reality this is another form of mindfulness and taps into the theory of ‘flow’ developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi whereby you are so absorbed in and energised by what you are doing you literally lose track of time.
- Get off the phone/tablet/other thingamies. Serious time suckers. Years can pass you by if you’re not careful. Unless your baby has gone to bed and you’re looking at photos of them, that’s allowed.
- Stop trying to fill in the baby books. I bought baby books, milestone cards etc. Do you know what they did for me? They made me feel guilty. I put so much pressure on myself to have these beautifully filled in journals documenting my baby’s every which development that I ended up neither enjoying his development nor filling in the book! I’d realise ‘oh NO, there was a card for ‘I had my first bedtime story’ and I didn’t fill it in, aggghhhhh. I felt awful. The fact that at the time all of us had really enjoyed his bedtime story was suddenly wiped out and all that remained was the fact that I was a useless idiot for not having documented it. I have in my possession a lovely journal that my mum filled in when I was a baby. It’s amazing, I love it, I wanted to make the same for my baby. But I am not the same person as my mum and I need to get over that. It took me about 5 months to finally say, ok, enough with the baby books. I am just going to live every moment and photograph it, I do not need to write it all down as well. Be true to yourself, if it’s not working for you stop it.
- Talk with your partner, your family about your baby and the ways in which she is changing. ‘Do you remember when…’. ‘you’ll never guess what he did today…’. Talking helps to cement experiences into the brain (as does writing but we’ve covered that one!) and commit them to memory so you can relive and relish them over and again rather than lament their passing.
But really, the most important thing is just to keep your eyes open, nay keep them peeled. Pay attention and look out for it happening, watch it happening. Or in a nutshell, don’t blink and you won’t miss it.
So to my ever changing, ever growing not-so-little-anymore baby I say, grow little man, grow. Keep on changing every day, for I’m looking forward to someday meeting the big man you’ll become.
Oh, and sorry about the lack of cute baby journal.