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must read this week #2: growth and development are not a race

11 Things I Wish Every Parent Knew by Dr. Stephen Cowan on such a busy, rushed culture, I often hear things like “I can’t wait until this stage is over,” or “When will he/she sleep through the night?”  These are very normal things for parents to say because child rearing is freaking hard. We’re also programmed to praise all things early: early walkers, early talkers,  early potty users, etc. and we all know those weird parents that like to make things competitive for some reason.  Social media can add to the “race” if you let it in.  In 11 Things I Wish Every Parent Knew by Dr. Stephen Cowan, #1 on this list is “Growth and development are not a race.”   In a world that is so go-go-go, cherishing the development of our babies is one thing that should be savored, I think.  Every person is different and every baby is different in terms of development.  Anderson started counting fairly early and I’m really proud of him, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t necessarily guarantee him a spot in an advanced academic program in the future.  On the flip side, he won’t sing and dance, another item on the “what your toddler may be doing” lists, but I’m not going to push him into these things so he’ll “keep up.” He’ll get there when he gets there.
That clichéd statement that we tire of hearing over and over: “Enjoy every moment because it goes so fast” really does mean something, because it does go too fast. As much as we ache to hear our children speak articulately, we’ll ache just as much (or more) to hear their endearing baby babble later.  As much as we wish for them to walk, we’ll someday feel nostalgic because it means we won’t see them crawling around with a goofy diaper bum anymore.  “Enjoy every moment” is unrealistic because there are challenging times, too.  Nights where you just want sleep and your four week old is up 4 times or when you are sick yourself and you find you have to take care of another human being, regardless of how you feel.  Or even past the infant stages when you want to have a conversation, but you have your toddler with you and they are just so active you can’t take your eyes off them for a second.  Enjoying “every” moment is near impossible while IN the moment of a temper tantrum (that could be brought on by something as simple as a toy train running out of batteries) or a night when you are dead tired and your child wakes up and just wants to be with you.  However, what is “hard/challenging” in the moment can later seem so sweet in memory, and I’ve experienced this many times already.  For example, though I can remember crying from exhaustion during those first few months, I’d now give anything to go back to the middle of the night with my four week old baby, when the world was asleep and it was just the two of us. I could stare at his beautiful face and smell his baby smell and hear his little newborn sounds and simply hold him.
middle of the night feeding

Anderson a few weeks old at 5 AM

I also wouldn’t wish away this current stage of watching my spirited child run around and giggle and chase dogs and cats and chat with anyone who will listen, even if it is exhausting at times.  And call me crazy, but with each step towards independence, I feel a twinge because he needs me just a little bit less.   Having that little boy need me is the most fulfilling, happiest thing I’ve ever known and if I could hear him yell MOMMA at the top of his lungs and sprint to the door for a hug when I get home for the rest of my life, I’d be OK with that. Alas, he will grow up and he won’t need me to put on his shoes or cut his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for him, but I hope he’ll always need me in some way.  For now, I won’t wish the moments–even the tough ones–away.
I also really liked the part about the importance of creating traditions.  This past December, we were asked to send in a list of our family holiday traditions to daycare with Anderson as our weekly “parent activity.”  All of a sudden, I paused.  “Do we have any traditions?” I asked my husband.  Bit by bit, we started to realize that traditions had started to form organically already.  “Making pomanders,”  he said.  “Going to the same Christmas tree farm each year.”  Anderson has been to that tree farm three times.  Once in my belly and two times in real life.   “Watching Santa coming down the street on Christmas Eve,” he added.I remember so clearly our traditions as a child and they were truly what made the holidays, because they were enjoyable and predictable (and by predictable, I don’t necessarily mean that my mom hid the Easter Baskets in the same place every year!), thereby creating structure and happy anticipation.    At Christmas, we’d painstakingly choose one present that we were allowed to open at the table at breakfast time, making that one present REALLY special.   On my birthday, I’d always be allowed to pick where I wanted to go out to dinner, which I looked forward to each year (and I always chose Red Lobster).  These little things in life are such powerful memories and I want to be sure my child has his own memories of our traditions, whatever they evolve to be.

The 2013 Christmas Tree Hunt

The 2013 Christmas Tree Hunt


1 Comment

  1. Nancy Brenton says

    Ah yes, the memories do grow rosier after the hard days are over – still worth though.

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