At 8:00am my boy is all grins and giggles as I lay my hands on his head and pray blessings over him. I’m thinking that he’s the best baby in the world. By 11:00am he’s spent most of the morning fighting against napping and consequently against me. I inform him that the cute little elephant on his jammies should be something more applicable like a tasmanian devil and that I’m going to cross out the cute little “I love mommy” phrase scrawled across those same jammies and in sharpie I am going to replace it with “I am a punk.” How quickly the tides of mommyhood can turn. Being a mom is hard. It’s so worth it, but it’s so darn hard and I’ve only been doing it for 4 and a half months!
In college I took a class called “History of the Modern Middle East”….it was taught by a Muslim Turkish woman…it was hard. I woke up at night in a cold sweat dreaming I was being chased by either the Sunnis or the Shiites. But that class doesn’t hold a candle to the brain exhaustion of trying desperately to keep a million details of feeding schedules and sleeping schedules in my head and trying to make them add up to 24 hours at the end of every day. Try as I might I can’t get it to add up neatly with no remainders and just when I think I’ve got it, my little guy will throw me a curveball and wake up an hour early from his nap.
When I was a new mom, ya know, like 4 months ago, I felt like everything was a crisis and everything was going to be forever. He screamed in his car seat. I thought, “Oh no! He’s going to hate his care seat forever!” He screamed when I laid him down in his bed. I thought, “Oh no! Too many people have held him or rocked him to sleep and now he’s never going to sleep in his bed again!” The first time I gave him his daily vitamin I tried nursing him immediately afterward to get the nasty taste out of his mouth. He didn’t nurse well and I thought, “Oh no! He’s going to scream about this everyday forever and have a negative association with nursing linked to this stinkin vitamin!” Well guess what? If there’s one thing that I wish I could have told myself 4 months ago it's this: for better or for worse, nothing is forever with this little boy. He sleeps fine in his crib now and even better in his car seat. He takes his vitamin in the bath every day like a champ (although he still makes disgusted faces at me) and nurses like a pro. Just because he didn’t nap well yesterday doesn’t mean that he won’t nap well today and just because I nursed him to sleep every single night in the tent in Lake Tahoe for the sanity of everyone in the campsite, it does not mean that he won’t be able to get to sleep on his own in the crib now that we’re home. Nothing is forever. It’s just for right now, in this very moment.
But the reverse is true too. Just because he’s going down for naps without a peep this morning doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll do it forever. Next month me may go through a growth spurt and we could be back to lots of crying before naps. And that’s okay because sometimes babies just cry. I have a vivid memory of an older friend who had raised several grown children coming over for dinner when Charles was 4 weeks old. He cried from the other room all through dinner and I was feeling pretty self-conscious as I scurried around trying anything to get him to stop. I remember him telling me, “Kate, babies cry. You don’t have to feel embarrassed or ashamed. You’re not doing anything wrong. He’s just a baby and babies cry.” His words stuck with me. Whatever Charles is doing or isn’t doing in this moment, it doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong, and it certainly won’t last forever. All I need to do is just get up and comfort him just one more time and try again tomorrow. Nothing is forever, and this precious little boy won’t be a baby forever either so even on hard days I want to be filled with gratitude for the gift of this moment: His round little cheek against mine, his even little breaths and gulps, his soft fuzzy hair, his perfect little lips, the way he arches his back when I pick him up from sleep and raises his little nonexistent eyebrows. I am filled with gratitude to be his mommy. So I guess I’ll let him keep “I love mommy” written across his pajamas…just for today.