Teachings from another year of motherhood
They say hindsight is 20/20. I caught myself saying this to a new neighbour yesterday. He told us that he and his wife had just welcomed their first child 6 weeks ago. He remarked on how often people were telling him to ‘enjoy every moment’ and that ‘time would pass so quickly.’ And I told him what I now believe to be true, which is yes, time flies when you watch your child grow, but sometimes you don’t have the capacity to enjoy every moment and that is absolutely okay. In hindsight, I probably would have enjoyed more of the first year if I had stopped freaking out about how much I should have been enjoying it in the times when I clearly wasn’t.
And now my son just turned two years old and again, I feel like we’ve all up-leveled so massively. The first three years of a human’s life are rich with learning, growth, and development. As a mother, I too feel like my evolution has been explosive and when I consider all that this new role has taught me, I’m awestruck. So to year two…to a year spent next to more of a toddler than a baby, I thank you for all that you’ve taught me.
Although I didn’t think it possible, year two of motherhood was just as juicy as the first. The year when the dust settled a bit and the evolution that rocked me in the initial months seemed to soak and simmer within my body and mind. It was the stretch of time when I began to feel like my most wholehearted self within motherhood. As in, I hit a stride that had me believing that I’m cut out for this. A very good stride to hit.
The months after the big first birthday brought with them some new ways of being for both toddler and I. New big emotions. Dramatic moments brought on by any transition. We go outside, we go inside, we play, we nap. At each turn, a protest and the inability to communicate the very things at the tip of his tongue. I catch myself taking deep measured breaths often. Very often.
And like a light switch, one day he stopped wanting to eat the food I placed in front of him. No more meat, no more veg. Easily we slip into smoothies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and wow these meals feel stressful. Here I learn (again) to release control. As hard as I try, I can’t get this food into his body. And so I relinquish my strain to a saying that was heard often at my childhood summer camp ‘You get what you get, and you don’t get upset’. Still working on that second part.
We also saw our last day of breastfeeding. He sank into a daddy obsessive phase that pushed me to the sidelines and suddenly *poof*, our sacred ritual came to an end. A sweet end, might I add, because there was no force, no ‘not ready yet.’ It was natural and easeful and on his terms. How lucky, I thought. This didn’t mean I didn’t wipe away tears the first evenings when I didn’t rock him before bed and say and sing the things I always did. Again, another transition. The lesson remains that change is constant.
The second year was anchored by therapy appointments. For myself. For my husband and I together. This is our strength. The admission of our need for support because holy cow the isolation, the job loss, the moving, the lack of help, it all took a toll and that is just as it should be. How powerful a conversation can be. Ones that left me space to unravel some of the things that were choking my ability to take the next step as a person, mama, wife.
In crept 16, 17, 18 months, and the sheer obsession with things that move overtook our son. Digger. Bulldozer. Dump truck. You can’t fully conceive until you spend a day with us to know how this has infiltrated our lives. From songs, to books, to shows, and beyond. Excavators rule his heart and there’s just no stopping it for now. My learning in this is twofold. One, I see that a person’s interests can often come from within — without any suggestion from the outside world. And second, ask me about any construction vehicle and I’ll tell you something you’d never expect me to know.
In year two we saw our little guy’s first cold. And all those that followed. The runny nose that flows to no end and the nights spent cuddled in the rocking chair to help with the cough or congestion. A little dose of that helpless feeling when the person who is your heart is hurting and there’s next to nothing you can do.
The second year brought with it an evolution of little friendships and love between our son and those in his life. I got to bear witness to the birth of rituals with grandparents, aunts and uncles, playmates, and teachers. When I could step back to see the importance of his connection with these individuals, I could see not only the impact they had on him but the way in which he touches their lives. How special it is to see a little soul giving love and meaning to others. I‘m beginning to learn that as much as I am his mother and source of so much for him now, it is also my job to let him grow up and away from me.
Year two has been a language explosion. And thank goodness for that. We’ve been communicating since birth but oh how sweet the relief of words has been. The fact that our guy can now express a little more, say what he wants, and what he doesn’t want. ‘No’ might still be the default answer, but it’s certainly a joy to hear every new word, phrase, and sentence. The saying of words has sweetened the book reading, car rides, hikes, and mealtimes. I relearned the power of language and expression. I watch my son taste that new power everyday.
In the second year, my mind overwhelmed me with an incessant desire to contrast and compare. As ugly as it felt, I’d look for indicators of achievment or delay in comparison to every similar aged child we’d happen to meet. It felt toxic at times — hard to quiet that voice. I know the good intention of just wanting my son to be ‘on track’ and healthy. But the line is fine and easy to slip over. I am learning to replace that thinking with a focus on beautiful diversity and an emphasis on emotional intellect instead.
Bless sleep in the second year! Oh surely there were many nights spent in the rocking chair or on the floor, one arm in the crib. But I can tell you that there were many many more spent getting that luxurious restorative sleep that I wasn’t so sure I’d ever see again. The lesson? My body and brain are capable of bouncing back from a sleep deprivation like no other AND I will never take slumber for granted ever again.
Year two brought with it a perspective shift. A different understanding of time passing and the very important truth that if not seized now, these days will be gone in a blink. So now our cuddles feel sweeter. I have this more potent sense of soaking up the time with him, our bodies nestled together, reading, rocking, cozy before bed or in the early morn. Still smelling the top of his head, blowing rasberries on his tummy, and doing absolutely anything for a laugh. It’s just that now I am more aware that it won’t be like this forever and time with my toddler son is a chapter in our big book. Remembering that brings me back to the present all the time in the most incredible way.
Oh toddler days in year two. Thank you for pushing me to the very very end of my limits of patience and proving to me that I still have a little more there stored on the outskirts. Thank you for tuning me into the little things like the sound of that tractor trailer zooming by, or the simple joy of pouring water from one cup to another for an hour straight, or the happiness that comes from letting all the mess and chaos fade to the background to be exactly where I am, exactly present, exactly here and now. The toddler days have given me that feeling of the mom I thought I’d be. Planning little activities and adventures, chatting and singing and dancing like a fool, soothing and negotiating, and kissing those cheeks for the millionth time in a day.