When my daughter was an infant, I was greeted almost daily by people telling me, “Enjoy her. This time passes so quickly.” At the time, sleep-deprived and overwhelmed by new motherhood, I scoffed. Time seemed to stretch on endlessly, especially since I now woke up around 5:00am. But they were right – that first year was over before I knew it. Now that my baby isn’t a baby, there are a few things I wish I’d done differently.
Shoot video for no reason whatsoever.
If, two thousand years from now, archeologists somehow find my cache of home videos (and are able to translate them into whatever newfangled technology they’re using), they’ll assume our culture was one of nonstop celebration. “A very festive people!” they’ll say, seeing that life was apparently one big party filled with platters of food and colorfully wrapped presents. I took long movies of the special occasions, but I really wish I had taken more short bursts of the day-to-day things I considered mundane back then. I’d love to relive that time before she discovered that her feet belonged to her and kicked them wildly, those early Frankenstein monster-like steps, or her expression of sheer abandon riding on the swing.
Written in my baby book more frequently.
My mom gave me a baby book when I was pregnant and I meant to capture every single “first,” but there was always something else that took precedence: diapers to change, a sink full of dishes beckoning, or the never-ending mound of laundry to tackle. Whenever I had a free moment, I’d much rather snuggle my daughter than fill in the blanks of a journal that felt a bit like homework. But now that my child isn’t an infant, I really wish I had. I know, vaguely, when she got her first tooth or took her first steps – sometime between birth and her first birthday – but how I wish I could fine tune those memories a bit more.
Ignored unsolicited parenting advice (gracefully).
Each time I took my baby out for a walk, it was a bit like carrying a fifteen-pound sign that read, “Talk to Me! Tell me what I’m doing wrong!” – because it was truly astonishing how many strangers felt comfortable telling me just exactly what I was doing wrong. Which, seemingly, was quite a lot. “Put a hat on that baby. She’s going to catch a cold,” an elderly neighbor who’d never even said hello before demanded. I sheepishly smiled and grabbed the hat from the bottom of the stroller, plopping it on my daughter’s head. I didn’t bother telling her that, minutes earlier, my child had had this very hat on but that she’d decided that it was far more fun to pull it off and fling it on the ground. So I’d retrieved it from the street and had tucked it into the bottom of the stroller. Why didn’t I just ignore this woman? I’d felt judged by her. I wish I’d ignored all the “helpful” advice I’d received.
Not compared my baby to any other.
I vowed I’d never be one of those parents who compared my daughter to other children, but – I’m not proud of this – I did. When she was a newborn, I was filled with an odd pride when she aced her first ever standardized test, scoring a “10” on the Apgar. I was certain she was far cuter, smarter and all around better than any other baby. Then her friend Max started to walk before she did. His mom would rush off to collect him, carrying him back under her arm like a baguette, and plop him in the sandbox. I looked at my daughter, happily crawling around in the sand. Why wasn’t she walking yet? I’d feel ashamed that I was comparing her to others, but later, when Eva started having complex conversations with her mom while my child was still connecting words like dots, two or three at a time, I did it again. I tried not to, but part of me wondered if I’d been doing something wrong. However, she learned to walk and to talk – when she was ready. And, soon after she learned to walk she started running. I saw Eva’s mom staring at her, longingly, as Eva toddled a few steps and toppled over.