Today my little boy turns four months old. Four months! Not sure when that happened, but it happened. Next thing you know he’ll be borrowing my car, sending in college applications, and walking down the aisle. If you think about it, he is already 1/54th of the way to 18. It’s that thought that helps me remember to cherish each moment…moments like yesterday…
Coen laughed for the first time yesterday. I was holding him on the couch rocking him back and forth singing some ridiculous made-up gibberish about Lincoln Logs, enjoying that big gummy smile, and POOF! Out it came – a hearty chuckle followed by sweet little giggles that could melt the heart of even the coldest soul. It was the sound of genuine pleasure and innocence in that one particular blink-of-an-eye second of his life. To laugh that hard about something so inane got me thinking about that period in all of our lives called “childhood” and all the glory and freedom that comes along with it.
Everyone, as depressing and bitter as they may seem as adults, has some embedded fond memories of growing up. Even that old guy in suspenders that humphs in the corner of your office about the pencil sharpener not sharpening his pencils sharply enough had some endearing moments as a kid. His parents may have hated him, but even HE can’t deny having had a day or two of sunshine and rainbows. I was a lucky girl who grew up with siblings close to my age and parents close to my maturity level. Everything was treated with the anticipation and delight of a trip to Disneyworld. Camping in the rain was a “test of survival,” grocery shopping for Thanksgiving was “a scavenger hunt,” and bloody wounds from falling off a bike were “bodily badges of courage.” Simplicity was the name of the game. A red handkerchief and a couch was all we needed to become pirates, a record player and two toilet paper rolls made us instant, top-of-the-charts rock stars, and don’t even get me STARTED on the surplus of storylines that came from unloading the new vacuum cleaner and being handed that gigantic, gorgeous, Hoover cardboard box.
The laughter that erupted from dancing wildly around the pool table, cooking eggshells (accidentally) into Mother’s Day breakfasts, and ripping up Ritz crackers to feed ants in the driveway is truly and undeniably the laughter of innocence. Before we worried about the hazards of running into tables or choking on eggshells or cared about pavement rocks scarring our ladylike shins, we were innocent. When we could eat seven scoops of ice cream without picturing it on our hips, we were innocent. When the greatest fear we could fathom was the monster under our bed, we were innocent. When imagination was our driving force and creativity kept us out of trouble, we were innocent.
I’m not sure when it happens, but we all lose a large portion of that innocence as we get older. After your first accident, your first heartbreak, your first funeral, your first D+, your first job…little by little…that innocence is replaced by fear and caution and the dreaded R-word we all hate so much. Oh, how I HATE responsibility. Being a new mother has my R-word working overtime. I worry about bacteria in his bottle (not eggshells in his breakfast). I have newfound fears of abduction and SIDS (not monsters under his bed). And, I promise you, I haven’t eaten a single scoop of ice cream since the day he was born (Hey, I’ve seen my present-day hips and they do NOT need seven scoops of help).
Sometimes I wonder if I’m turning into that old guy in the corner with all his pencil-problem drama, but I sure do hope not. I still love to laugh and dance and sing into toilet paper rolls (but now, I do it when no one is looking). It’s funny how growing up really opens your eyes to the other side of the coin. You start to notice the dents and rust on what was once shiny and bright. But, when you become a parent, that shiny and bright side is even SHINIER and BRIGHTER than ever before.
I have a new life to sculpt and form and introduce to this world. It is my job to make sure the world he knows is carefree and memorable, filled with plenty of cardboard boxes (and vacuum cleaners, apparently). If it takes kneeling over ant hills crushing crackers into the sidewalk cracks, I will do it everyday to hear that amazing laugh – the laugh that erases all my fears and worries and helps remind me to live this second with those people in that spot. Children are our savers of innocence, and I’ve learned that in the first 1/54th of his life. Makes me wonder what the rest of his childhood will teach me.