Introspection abounds this month as we near Little Dude’s first birthday. The other day, I started thinking about advice that I am sure we have all received some form of, at least once:
Enjoy him while he’s still young.
Um…excuse me? Did I miss something? Does my baby’s “enjoyability factor” come with an expiration date?
I understand the sentiment. Most of us love a cute,
squishy newborn cuddled up and sleeping on our chest. That new baby skin and new baby smell – the whole package truly helps you appreciate the precious miracle of life.
Yet reality is a lot more complex than “a baby is a bundle of joy”.
However well-meaning the advice to “enjoy them while they’re still young” is intended to be, it does a disservice to everyone involved. It implies that as a child grows up, he somehow becomes less fun, less enjoyable, less valued than a precious, cooing newborn. It also contributes to the mixed emotions and uncertainty a new mom already feels, with or without the feedback.
Newborns, while cute, are hard work! They are needy and greedy – let’s be honest, they are. They demand to be fed on their schedule, round the clock. After nearly every feeding, they require at least one diaper change. They have opinions (I still marvel at the clear opinions my newborn possessed), and because they cannot clearly communicate their opinions, they vent their frustrations in the only way they know how: crying. And you, new momma, are trying to learn what each cry means, and constantly troubleshooting down the laundry list of “what could possibly be wrong this time?”
Enjoy it. No, really.
Of course, a child is a joy. I enjoy and savor every good moment:
- His first laugh
- Cuddling on the couch at night
- The way his face wrinkles up when he’s mad
- The way his eyebrows raise when he tries a new food he likes
- His deep belly laugh when Dad tickles or teases him
- His radiant smile first thing in the morning
- His first steps, when he didn’t even realize what he was doing
At the same time, I do not enjoy waking up at 3 AM on a workday for a midnight snack run to the bottle warmer. I have yet to meet a mom who does. And that’s okay.
I will also never stop enjoying the good moments. I anticipate many more of them:
- The first picture he draws me
- His first day of pre-K
- Meeting all his little friends
- Helping with homework
- Doing crafts together
- Teaching him to drive
I am sure no friend or family member believes the newborn stage is the only enjoyable stage. However, like it or not the phrase “while he’s still young” carries that implication, along with a subtle suggestion that we may not be enjoying enough.
Let’s all do ourselves a favor and nix that part of the sentiment. Next time you melt when you see a picture of a friend’s baby on social media, or are enjoying a play date or family gathering, simply say, “Enjoy him, he’s precious,” or “Enjoy.”
Because while our offspring may test our patience, we will never stop enjoying the good times. And if we play our cards right, there will always be good times to find and cherish.
What do you cherish about your child? What just isn’t “cherish material”? What else have people said that implies more than they intended? How did you react or respond?