As Jack was noticeably growing, I told Allison that I wish I could construct a life-like robot of Jack for each month he’s alive. Perhaps that’s a bit unrealistic, so I scaled it back to “Ok, fine. Only each month of his first year.”
It’s your job to get them grown up. The most bittersweet part of that job is the slow transition that is taking place as your child is getting older each day. Now, I can’t even pretend to be an expert at “watching my kids grow up”, as Jack is (as of this writing) barely 7 months old but I am right now dwelling on the outskirts of a feeling that I can tell is going to be pride-inducing as it is wistful.
When Jack was a newborn he fit rather comfortably in both my hands. His fragile neck and lower head cradled in my left and his tiny butt fitting snugly in the palm of my right with his breech birth legs, refusing to relax and dangle, just shooting straight into the air. To accomplish this now I’d need hands each with a width of 15 inches. So, what, right? He’s growing. That’s what kids do. Yet as he sheds each of these skins and a new Jack appears with each continuing milestone I feel that as much as I’ve gained in this experience, I’ve lost something or equal importance and emotional value. There is a sense of “why do I have to lose this quality to gain this new one?” as you, for a moment, willingly ignore what it means to grow up.
As you see your baby grow and with each day shape himself along the stages we have named for them…newborn…infant…toddler…you have the most prominent indicator that regretting what is past is pointless because of all the attention that the future requires of you.
As much as I miss Jack’s pursed lipped look each time he’d poop his diaper, now I get to look him in his eyes as he attempts spit-filled, garbled communication. As much as his toothless grin made me feel like I’d been punched in the heart, now I get to see the look of excitement as he realizes that we’re eating a food that he loves. His tiny, easy to sway back and forth to put to sleep body is gone, yeah. But now I can look on in amazement as he methodically picks up each of his toys on his own in an attempt to decide which is his favorite today. As much as I love watching him grow, I look forward with optimism and pride at who he will (with our help) grow into.
We’re human beings and as such it is impossible to ever truly live in the now and not, in some way, be wanting for an aspect of ourselves or our loved ones that is long gone. Jack will start crawling soon. After that he will talk. He will walk. Run. Skin his knee. Learn to read. Be frustrated over not being able to solve a math problem. Get into fights with his friends. Drive a car. Make a stupid choice. Fall in love and on and on and on. With all of these wonderful experiences ahead for him, one would wonder why I would lament the loss of baby cheeks. And yet I do.
But seriously, who ever does end up perfecting a “Month to Month Robot of Your Baby” thing. That guy is gonna make a mint!
Maybe it’ll be Jack?
We’ll have to wait and see.