We went to a wedding last night. Ethan got a little bit fussy during the father/daughter/mother/son dance, so I took him out to change him. I'm not even that big of a "Butterfly Kisses" fan, but maybe it was because I'd had a hard day (not as a mom, just as a person...and I'm allowed that here and there, even though I don't often give myself mercy enough to have a bad day). Maybe it was because right before that song, they'd played "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri for the bride and groom dance, and I'd never heard that song before, and while the bride sobbed, I got to hold and look at and kiss my sweet baby as I heard the beautiful words of that song.
Maybe it was a combination of those things, but as I walked down the hallway and into a dark, empty classroom at the church where the reception was being held, I couldn't hold back the tears and I ducked into the classroom and wept as I went about changing my baby's diaper as usual.
Being a mom hurts. And people who don't have children, or who haven't had a new child in twenty plus years, don't seem to understand this. They tell me I should be grateful for every moment, that I should revel in the joy that each new stage brings about, that I shouldn't be sad about the changes.
I have taken to heart the advice I was given when I was pregnant and that I receive daily as a new mom. I have cherished every moment. I have loved every second, even the harder ones, because I know it will go fast, just like everyone told me. I've never regretted becoming a mother, or wished I'd waited a little longer, or wondered if I should have done this. I've opened my heart to my son and let the love I feel for him wash over me constantly.
And yet, despite all my efforts to cherish and love every moment, it still goes by too fast. And it still hurts. Because you fall in love with someone, only to watch them change into someone else every day. Development at this age goes by so quickly. Think about your spouse. We are all constantly evolving, but relatively speaking, your spouse is the same person they were six months ago. They probably look about the same and sound the same and do the same things. My son is six months old. He is a completely different person today than he was six months ago, when I first held him in my arms. His hair is a different color, his eyes are a different color, he's six and a half inches taller and weighs more than double what he did then. He couldn't even smile six months ago and now he gasps and scream-laughs like a little adult when I walk in the room and make a face at him.
So yes, each stage is new and exciting and wonderful and there is so much joy in all of it, but there is also the heartache that accompanies losing the person they were last week as you fall in love with the person they are today. My heart feels the physical ache of this paradox. Growing pains.
I miss velvety newborn skin and dark, nearly black hair and navy blue eyes. I miss wondering if he'll ever grow eyebrows or eyelashes. I miss that first week, when he'd cry and someone would place him in my arms and he'd instantly stop crying once he locked eyes with mine, and we'd stare at each other, developing an understanding. I miss when he didn't have the ability to express his excitement the way he does now, and how he'd hear my voice and his eyes would widen as much as they could and he'd kick his feet because he just couldn't do anything else with himself to show how excited he was to see me. I miss watching him look curiously at his hands, then put forth is arm and gently bat at something nearby as he learned his hands had useful qualities that were, up until that point, undiscovered.
Something about the words of the song they were playing while the bride and groom danced with their parents. "I'm only gonna kiss you on the cheek tonight." It pulled my heartstrings because now I know a little something about how a parent must feel on their child's wedding day. It sounds silly because Ethan is only six months old, but those six months have flown at the speed of light and I can't help but wonder if the next twenty years will fly by equally fast. If I'll be dancing with my son at his wedding, wondering how this could be happening when I only brought him home from the hospital weeks ago. It was only weeks ago, right?
This is such a sweet and special time because he has no idea how imperfect, how flawed I am. The only thing he knows right now is that I am his mother, that I love and adore him, and that he feels the same way in return. He won't always feel that way about me. I told my husband the other day that right now, it's easy to feel like a good mom. I strive so hard every day to make sure that he is safe, that he is loved, that he is healthy, that he's properly fed, that I work with him on his development and encourage his education. We don't have to work on behavior yet. Right now he's this wonderful, pleasant, blessedly easy baby that I get to adore. It's when he gets a little older that things get confusing, that all the books and methods get conflicting. It's when we get to the behavior stages that I could really mess things up.
I read once in a book called The Five People You Meet In Heaven that all parents damage their children. Youth is like glass, and some parents leave little scratches or cracks in the glass, while others shatter it completely, beyond repair. Okay, so in some way, despite all my best efforts, I will damage my child, at least a little bit. I need to accept that. Okay.
We all pick apart our parents. We analyze what they did right and wrong in raising us. It's a part of the process of self-actualization. It's necessary and we all do it. And someday, my children will do the same with me.
But when that day comes, whether it be when he's ten years old and embarrassed and annoyed because I want to hug him, or when he's a surly teenager who is mad at me because I've wronged him in some way, or when he's a grown man starting his own family; he's not going to be thinking about all the hours I spent lying next to him while he took his naps, staring at his face and thinking how perfect it is, memorizing every feature because I know tomorrow he won't look the same. He won't be thinking about how he was the subject of so many of my earnest prayers. How I prayed and tried every day to be a better woman so I could be the mother he deserves. He won't think about how I could hold him or look at him for hours, thinking how I'd never loved like this, wondering how I was worthy to become his mother, how I could be so blessed just to hold him close and bask in his presence. He won't think about how his smiles and the simple act of resting his head on my shoulder could make my whole day. That I looked at him and thought how I would love him forever, and that I had loved him a thousand years before he was even born. How I felt that way because I couldn't remember a time I didn't love him, when I didn't live for him.
To anyone with parents, go hug your mom. Let her smell your hair. I know a little something about how she feels about you. She likely laid next to you for hours, watching you sleep and wondering how there ever existed a world that didn't include you in it. She probably looked at you and felt her heart grow and thought she was the only person in the world who'd ever felt that way. I know, because it wasn't that long ago for me, how she felt the first time she held you. If you call her and she nags you or worries too much about you, I know how she feels, and please, don't react with so much impatience and annoyance. Just let her love you.
"I have died every day waiting for you
Darling don't be afraid
I have loved you for a thousand years
I love you for a thousand more
And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I love you for a thousand more."