My son just turned 13 months. From that fragile tiny baby that I cradled in my arms, to the solid 11kg tot that now stomps around the room before me, I do sometimes stop and wonder how his first year went by so fast.
I knew it would go fast and it terrified me from day one. I remember my Mum saying when he was just a few days old that “they’re lovely as newborns, but they just get better and better.” Looking at him, so tiny and perfect, I remember thinking “how could he get better than this?” I felt like I wanted to keep him like that forever.
But the months passed by and he grew and he grew. I loved watching him change and learn new things, but though I never wanted to admit it, the fact that he was growing so fast always had a tinge of sadness to it. I tried to hold on to his babyness, believing that as we neared the big ‘one-year-old’ milestone, something about my son would suddenly cease. He’d no longer be a baby, but a little boy. His baby days would be over, gone forever.
Making matters worse, I kept seeing sayings in my Facebook feed, like “though the days are long, the years are short” and they made me panic even more, worrying that I wasn’t savouring every day to the absolute full. But the thing is, it can be really bloody hard to cherish every moment. From the first colicky weeks of minimal sleep and the raw adjustment to parenthood, to the cranky ‘I must fight every-single-nap’ phase, to the ‘I only want Daddy phase’, I will hold my hands up and say that sometimes…it can all just be a bit crappy.
But as parents, we should be allowed to admit this, if not to each other then at least to ourselves. Having a baby is quite probably one of the biggest things you’ll ever do. Seriously, the scale of the commitment is phenomenal, not just in the short-term, but the long-term too. And it’s a whole world of juxtaposed emotions. On the one hand you’ve never felt so much love and perfection in your whole life, yet on the other hand you’ve never feel so much worry, guilt and exhaustion. Topped off with the complete panic that it’s all passing by too fast and you’re not 100% enjoying every minute of every day, it can be totally overwhelming.
And overwhelmed I was the night before my son’s first birthday. I couldn’t stop cuddling him, kissing him, making the very most of his last few hours as a ‘baby’. On the dawn of a major celebratory milestone, I actually felt really sad.
But the funny thing was, when we woke the next morning, my son was just the same! Exactly the same beautiful baby I had snuggled up with the night before. He hadn’t changed, or suddenly become a grown boy overnight. He looked the same and acted the same, there was absolutely no difference.
The sense of sadness I had the night before melted and got replaced with a sense of happiness, pride and also relief too. Pride for my son and relief for me and my husband that we had reached the one year mark with only a few minor parenting fails (a high-five was actually exchanged at this point while we sat in bed watching our son open his first presents).
Since that day, I’ve come to realise that your child growing up should not be feared, because the fact is, they do get better and better the bigger they get! At 13 months not only does my son continue to get easier, but he continues to get more fun and affectionate. He sleeps more, plays more, toddles over to give me cuddles, and has even started dancing (which is quite possibly the cutest thing in the whole world)! His love for me is just priceless, and I can sincerely say that after a year of giving all my energy to look after him as a baby, I am delighted that he is finally able to reciprocate that love back to me through means other than crying and clinging. Seriously, one-year-olds are absolute charmers!
So to all new parents who are feeling the same sense of panic that it’s all passing too fast, or that you’re not enjoying every single moment like you’re meant to, here’s a message to you – don’t fret. Don’t feel guilty. Because in truth, while you think you should savour every moment, every moment is not always worth savouring. The first year can be tiring, can be overwhelming, can be scary, and this is not something to be ashamed about.
The fact is that it’s magical to watch your baby grow and thrive and turn into a little person before your eyes, and this what you’ll cherish forever. I do still worry sometimes that time is passing too fast, but I know equally too that there are so many exciting things ahead.