I had a revelation while at dinner with friends last night: raising a baby from birth to nine months is not gratifying. You feed them, bathe them, put them to sleep, respond to their every need and all they do to thank you for that is wake up the next day with the same set of needs. Over and over and over again. You see glimmers of hope that life is beginning to register in their tiny minds as they point and giggle at inanimate objects, but really, all you are is a bottle dispensing poop handler with a ticking time bomb that you try, at all costs, to keep from exploding on an hourly basis. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE being a mom, but being a mom to an infant is pretty darn thankless!
And then your baby turns nine months old and something shifts. You’re still a bottle dispensing poop handler, but your little time bomb starts to learn basic ways to communicate what they want from you. She crawls over to your feet and for the first time reaches up to you with those tiny arms extended and you realize that she wants you. SHE. WANTS. Y.O.U! Up until that moment you’re not entirely sure she cares that you’re the person wiping her tush or getting up with her at 2:00am, and the fact is, she probably really doesn’t care who is servicing her needs. But, the fact is, the thousands of miles logged rocking back and forth in her rocking chair all led us to this moment, where she finally realized that I am her person. I am her safe place. She needs me and I need her to need me.
Spoiler alert: the older our kids get, the less they need us. Or, perhaps it isn’t quite that straight-forward. Maybe they need us the same amount, but in different ways.
For nine months we fed and rocked to sleep every night. Now, we feed and rock, but she doesn’t fall asleep. When she’s done with her bottle, she pushes it away and doesn’t draw in for a night-time snuggle; instead she wants to get in her crib and relax and snuggle with her bunny before falling asleep. I know most parents would pay a full month of their salary to a sleep consultant to be able to lay their 10 month old in their crib, fully awake, and have them fall asleep and STAY asleep all night long. I have that unicorn child, but it already makes me sad that she doesn’t need mama snuggles to lull her into slumberland. I’ve been replaced by a freaking bunny! But you know what a bunny can’t do?!?!? Bunnies can’t sit on the floor and play the maracas with her while she shakes her tambourine. Bunnies can’t show her how the itsy bitsy spider climbs up the water spout. And, most importantly, bunny can’t tell her that he loves her and teach her to love herself. That’s what mommys and daddys are for!
I’m not sure at what point parenthood will truly be gratifying. It still feels a heck of a lot like I’m just keeping her alive, but in my heart I know I’m doing more than that. I read a parenting blog recently that said the days are long, but the years are short. At the end of each day, I can’t say that motherhood is gratifying, but month-over-month, my heart is filled with gratitude that I am the mom to a smart and beautiful little girl who loves music, dancing and her freaking bunny! And I’m grateful to bunny for being my daughter’s comfort when she awakes in the middle of the night, because, let’s be honest, 2am snuggles are over-rated! If only I could teach bunny to change a diaper!