My son hit his 7 month birthday last week. 7 months. That’s more than 200 days… Almost 5,000 hours… Nearly 20 MILLION seconds my child has been on this earth. One might think after that long post-utero I would have a decent idea of the direction in which we are headed. Maybe have a loose grasp of regularity and order, or at least a better understanding of what our end result will be. But, alas, 7 months into this cockamamie adventure, I still find myself questioning, “Is this normal? Am I wrong? Did I just screw him up for life?”
It’s funny because I feel like we are constantly aiming to hit new moments (more commonly referred to in Mommyville as “milestones”). I remember crying at 4 a.m. when Coen was 3 1/2 months old because he woke up for the third time that night screaming bloody murder. I looked at Nate and yelled, “You said he would sleep through the night at 3 months.” Same situation at 5 months. “The internet doctor said he should be rolling over by now!” 6 months. “Where are his teeth? NATE, WHERE ARE HIS TEETH?” Ah, how my poor husband loves those moments of panic (more commonly referred to in Daddyville as “PMS”). He, along with many girlfriends-on-speed-dial, eventually got it through my thick, insecure skull: all babies develop differently.
So there you have it. My child may not crawl at 8 months like “What to Expect” says he should, but maybe that fancy author mom had thin, agile children dying to escape the evil clutches of their controlling mother. I like to think Coen just enjoys my hugs (and his food) so much that movement is not yet deemed necessary. When he cries at midnight, and again at 1:30, and YET AGAIN at 3:00, I tell myself it’s not because he’s needy (as claimed by pediatricians around the world). Rather, he simply had an amazing dream about green lions and purple puppies that form their own island of misfit mammals and he wants nothing more than to share it with me that instant in case I want to write these ideas down so he can publish his children’s book someday (i.e. he’s creative and forward-thinking). See? I can spin anything.
But, if I cannot control the pace he grows teeth or stands up or says “ma-ma”, what CAN I control? Some would preach “NOTHING.” I disagree. I can help form his character. I can mold his temperament. I can set an example. This motivation gets me through each day with a smile on my face. There is no better feeling than putting him to bed and night and wondering, “What do you think he learned today?”
It’s not easy to do this well every day. There are parents that could probably attest to this (see Alois and Klara Hitler, circa 1890). I know we’ve had moments of immediate regret already in the past 7 months. How do we really know what he will and will not remember? Will he recall that day when mommy had a glass (or two) of merlot before 10 in the morning? Did he hear the explicit behind-the-back talk surrounding the latest family fall-out? Will the day he decides to utter his first word be the same day mommy called daddy an ass? (Can you imagine his baby book… Baby’s First Word: ASS).
It’s a lot of pressure. No parent will disagree. But, if you make an effort and live by the words of Gandhi (“Be the change you wish to see in the world”), worry should fade away to nothing (also, much like Gandhi). Nate and I try to make a conscious effort to be this visible change for our son by repeating “please” and “thank you,” giving lots of hugs and kisses, and exposing him to the beautiful diversity this world has to offer.
We have been taking Coen to story time at the library a few miles away. We didn’t know it when we signed up, but this particular library is in a neighborhood filled with co-ops, dreadlocks, and vegetarian delis. Our first story time was a very small group which consisted of a lesbian couple and their daughter, Lily. Lily was an animated girl who would skip joyfully around the room and build Roman citadels with toy blocks. Coen watched her gleefully in hopes that someday he could be that full of liveliness and spirit. Yes, I understand that Coen wouldn’t know the partnering of two women from the partnering of a frog and a zebra right now, but my hope is that he will be raised with this exposure and maybe, just maybe, it will be old hat and Lily will just have “parents” with no footnotes or hidden clauses. The boy is growing up in a world with an African American President, for God’s sake! I’d say we’re setting the stage for change. Now, if we can just keep the ball rolling in our own personal examples, I’d say we should end up with a pretty patient and virtuous child, don’t you?
There’s a lot of room, and time, for error. Just because we’ve gotten through 5,000 hours guarantees nothing for the next um, well, however many more hours there will be until he hits 18. I’m quite positive there will still be moments, er, milestones, that bug the crap out of me because every OTHER kid could do it MONTHS ago. But instead of burning those frustrating books by Dr. NeverHadKidsButPreachesAnyway, maybe I’ll pick up “The Giving Tree” and do something productive with my time, like teach my kid how to be a good person.