I wish I'd given birth to a four-year-old.
I don't mean this in the literal sense. That's a mighty long gestation; even an elephant would faint at that kind of a pregnancy commitment. What I do mean is that the defenceless infant stage challenges me in ways that don't tickle my fancy.
Now, the first three months are very potato-like. Your baby will cry, excrete things from various orifices, pass out, and wake at inopportune times (Which is every time, if memory serves. All I ever wanted was just one more hour of sleep). All those toys marketed for ages 0+? Yeah, that just means your newborn won't die from exposure to it, not that there will be play. They couldn't care less about that jingly dangle ball. Their benign indifference to that rattle you're shaking could rival an aloof house cat. And you? They don't care about you. They just want their needs met. At least, that's how it felt to me.
Some people love their crying potatoes. And, I mean, yes, I did too. There's a primitive protocol that, when your brain and hormones are firing on all cylinders, compels you to care for your new baby and love him. Even if you're tired, even if you don't want to right now, even if you're scared. I didn't exactly bond right away to my newborn, but I did get onboard with his needs at 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, and if waking at ungodly hours doesn't show love, then set the bar lower.
But really, there are Baby People, folks who just love the smell, the sounds and the overall experience of an infant. They can't believe how fast the time is going by. They cherish the smallness, the sense of being needed so completely, and forget what life was like before. At least they say that last one and I'm not sure what they mean. For example, I remember a time when I would decide to leave the house and then just go ahead and leave the house. I recall those times with a wistful fondness.
But maybe I don't get it because I am not a Baby Person. I like babies in a general way. I am a human being, after all. There's discomfort some people have around babies or a preference to not be around them, sure, but I think most people at a core level are pro-baby, just as members of humanity. And I am pro-baby, and I think they're cute and I like them well enough, and certainly more so now that I have my own. But I also never gave them much thought before I became a mother.
I don't mind changing diapers at all, but I think something I enjoy about it is the fact I'm not trying to toilet train, which scares the crap out of me, pardon the intentional pun. I have no idea how that's done (I can't even get my son to use a sippy cup). If someone would just do it for me I'd feel like I missed out on exactly nothing. I know about one woman who declined her daycare provider's offer of training her son because she “wasn't ready”. Dude. I do not comprehend. But okay, so she's a Baby Person then, right? That's why I don't get it. I'd have jumped at that offer. Bring my baby one step closer to being a kid!
I like feeding because it's a quiet time where I can sit still and not think of ways to meet a baby on his level. But I'm enjoying it less these days because my nine-month-old is pulling my hair (Even when I tie it back he still finds some, WTF?) or grabbing my skin and digging his nails in. Like, seriously guy? You're scratching the hand that feeds you. Pfft, but like that even comes with any consequences, though. What am I going to do, really? “No more bottle for you then, sir!” I've said no, but he laughs at me. I'm not sure what to do with that.
And that's another thing, when they do things you don't want them to do, you have no recourse. They don't understand discipline. You can say no, but it doesn't really go anywhere. You basically just pick up the stuff they throw, stop them from eating the results of your bad housekeeping and keep saying “gentle” when they try to grab the cat's tail or poke another baby's eye.
You know what I do love? Kids. Adore them. Understand them. Relate to them. I've left adults at parties to talk to the kids. I enjoy the screwy stuff they say. I like play. I love answering endless questions. I am qualm-free about hard questions. I've been mentally going over every controversial subject I know of since I was a teen, trying out in my mind how I'd explain it to a child.
I even read my mom's child development books for work when I was 10, for Pete's sake. I took an interest in kids when I still was one. And at 10, I was the oldest kid in daycare by a huge margin and took the six year olds under my wing. They'd ask me to draw them princesses every day. There was five of them. That's 25 princesses a week every week. By the way, I'm really good at drawing princesses. If my son is ever interested, I got his back.
I just respond to kids, and they've always responded to me. And I get so excited thinking about the things I'll do with my son when he's old enough, like go to the zoo, the aquarium, the amusement park, the Science Centre, the movies... And I know you can take a baby to the zoo, but damn it, I'm just not feeling it. I'll have to push a stroller around and deal with naps and cart around his meals for the whole day in a bulky diaper bag. I also have a personal policy about not spending a lot of money on outings that have many obstacles to a good time and which won't be remembered anyway.
Actually, just being able to take him to the park is big. First time I pushed him in a baby swing was a revelation. This summer I should be able to do the wading pool and splash pad. (Though what I'm totally excited about in the more distant future is the water park. WATER SLIDES! My husband won't go with me, but surely my son will be on my side.)
But what a long road it is. And I'm pretty sure my son is going to be an amazing kid. He's so amazing to me, even if this age doesn't rock my socks. He has got a mad case of the sillies. But the forthcoming toddling, which precludes childhood, is scary to me. Walking without any concept of personal safety. That's a lot of preventing your baby from dying to do. My boy's going to daycare when he's 11 months. I said to a mom that I hoped he'd hold off learning to walk until then. She said I was terrible. I was making a joke.
(No, I wasn't.)
Jennifer blogs at wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca
(Image: Julia Sonenshein)