I can’t remember the last time I changed my son’s diaper.
I can’t remember the last time I held his hand to help him walk.
I can’t remember the last time he talked in baby babble and I didn’t understand.
It makes me so happy to see how he’s grown into a healthy, happy six-year-old. But it also sends me into a panic, not remembering those three things. It makes my heart beat a little faster, not out of excitement but out of anxiety. He’s growing up so fast! Before I know it he might not want to be hugged and kissed anymore, just like my other friends have shared of their sons.
CS Lewis said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different…” I think about that now and can say that it’s very true about raising children. I remember the agonizing feeling of seeing the sun rise while trying to make my infant son sleep. The dawn reminded me of the few times I’d sneak back into the home after a night of partying. But the dawn took on a different meaning once I had a baby. At that time I just wanted the sleepless nights to end. Looking back, I wish I had handled it with more grace, that I had cherished each moment even more lovingly. Don’t blink – they grow up so fast.
My son was a late speaker. At two years old, he still wasn’t speaking in complete sentences. He wasn’t even pronouncing words properly. He would rather point at objects in order to get them. Communication was limited to baby babble like “adeeeee” which didn’t mean anything in particular, but was his way of talking to us. He is six years old now and talks practically non-stop. A few weeks ago, he took an interest in babies in Mommies’ tummies. He had seen a picture of me while I was pregnant with him.
Son: “Mommy, is there a baby in your tummy?”
(Silence from my son)
Son: “Mommy, did you eat the baby?”
I laughed out loud, holding him close to me. These innocent questions won’t last long, I know, so I’m holding on to him, to his innocent wonder, for as long as I can. Don’t blink – they grow up so fast.
In the past six years I’ve been raising my son, I’ve come to learn that it’s the little moments that matter most. I remember the big trips we’ve taken, but moments that tug the heartstrings tend to be the smaller, quieter moments. With my boy, conversations when the bedroom light is turned off become whispers, but become more meaningful.
(After lights out, my little boy and I were lying side by side in bed)
Son: “Will we wake up together tomorrow?”
Me: “No, baby. I have to go to office so you’ll still be sleeping when I leave.”
Son: (sighs) “Okay.”
Son: “Will you and Daddy come home in the night?”
Me: (quietly smiling) “Yes, we will.”
Do we spend enough time with our children? I know I don’t. As a full-time office worker, everyday is a struggle between wanting to nurture him from the time he wakes up to the time he nods off to dreamland, and needing to make a living for the family. It’s a choice I’ve made, though I know I’m missing out on precious, growing-up moments. Honestly, there are times when it makes me feel I’m not a good enough mother, but I try not to wallow in this guilt. I focus on my child again instead. After all, we shouldn’t blink – they grow up so fast.
There are trinkets we hold on to remind ourselves of their younger years. Their first pair of shoes perhaps, a baby book that holds strands of hair from their first haircut. Pictures from childbirth to carousel rides fill our hard drives. Facebook memories reminded me the other day that five years ago, I had a three-month-old son who we would take out for a sunbath. Those routine, everyday moments I look back on with a wistful and grateful heart.
“Do you have any advice for me?,” a friend of mine asked. She was about to give birth, and we had showered her with newborn-sized diapers and clothes for her baby girl. There was practical advice like “sleep when the baby sleeps” and “eat oatmeal to help with lactation”. There was advice on how to deal with baby throw-ups, projectile poop, and the panic of checking on your baby in the middle of the night just to see if she was breathing properly. After all the panicky stories we shared, advice gradually shifted to “But enjoy every minute of it while you can!!!” “Enjoy changing diapers?,” she asked, her nose wrinkling at the thought. “YES!!!!!,” we Mom friends declared. Don’t blink – they grow up so fast.
I’m on my way to work as I write this, having left for work while my son was still asleep. I know that later in the day I’ll get a picture of him on Viber from my mother. It will be a snapshot of him playing with his toys, or even a simple moment of him just looking out the window. Technology has helped us cherish the growing up moments and milestones even when we’re apart, but there’s nothing like being here, right in front of them, witnessing it for ourselves, our eyes wide open, resisting the urge to blink.
Once in a while, I do the following with my son. We started when he was about four years old, when he had begun counting up to higher numbers.
“Come here baby,” I’d say. He’d stand in front of me, while I’d be seated on the couch. At that level we would be looking at each other eye to eye. “Now count to thirty.” He’d begin, “1…2….3….” And I’d just look at him. I’d just gaze at him while he looks back at me, giggling a little bit, shifting his weight from one foot to another, eager to go back to play. But no, for thirty counts he is mine. I look at his face when he counts. I try to memorize the roundness of his cheeks, the naughty glint in his eyes, the button nose I can’t resist pinching. “30!!!” He’d declare when he’s done. I’d give him a hug and let him play.
It started with him counting to ten a few years ago. Then 20. Then 30. Recently, we did 50. I wonder if he’ll still want to do this when he’s a teenager. I’ll keep trying. It’s one of those moments when I just look at him, trying not to blink for as long as I can, because I know when we do this same thing in a couple of months, it will be different. The same exercise, but different. Don’t blink – they grow up so fast.
I can’t remember the last time I nursed him. I can’t remember the last time he used a potty chair. I can’t remember the last time I rocked him to sleep. But I know we shared those moments, and I still remember the feeling of each one. The joy of seeing him sleepily smile in satisfaction after nursing. The frustration and thrill of potty training. The love of softly singing a lullaby while I cradled him in my arms, watching his little eyes flutter and become heavy with sleep. I may not remember every moment especially when I’m old and grey, but I will always hold in my heart all the emotions around those memories – fear, sadness, but even more so, the joy and all the love, oh the love.
“Watch me, Mommy!”
Is what my little boy said, standing at the bottom step of the stairs, then jumping high in the air before landing on the floor on both feet.
“Watch me, Mommy!”
Is what he said when he raced two toy cars down a race track.
“Watch me, Mommy!”
Is what he said, last night, when he was showing me how to control a superhero on his iPad game.
I watch each moment he asks me to watch him, trying to memorize each one, trying to hold on to the feelings of joy in each one. I watch, and I watch, and I try not blink.
This post first appeared on The Philippine Online Chronicles.