Suburban Snapshots


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I've noticed on Facebook one thing that happens a lot between new moms and moms whose kids are at least pre-teens. It usually goes like this:

Mom 1: Baby crying all day. Calgon? Vodka?
Mom 2: Oh, enjoy her now. Just wait 'til she's a teenager!

Through every stage of your baby's life, there's someone telling you to pay attention, enjoy these moments, either because they're gone so quickly or with the insinuation that if you think this sucks, you're probably going to drop that kid off at the Nebraska state line when she's a teenager (or did I read that they have since changed that particular return policy?).

New moms do nothing but live in the moment. You're constantly attending to the needs of a brand new human. In the early weeks, between sitting on the couch boobs (or bottle) out, holding, swaddling, and wishing someone would invent Magic Eraser: Infant Poop, you don't have a lot of time to stare at your baby and imagine her first love, her first prom — you're lucky if you can imagine her first crap of the day. Your brain spends its time functioning at 150% on 12 minutes of sleep (simultaneous if you're lucky).

And you love that kid, desperately. In the best moments you wonder at how incredible they are, how unreal their sudden presence in your life. I appreciated Anna's long newborn naps and contented gurgling time. She didn't do much else, so all of that sparkly amazingness moms of older kids advise not to take for granted only happened later, and now in hindsight. I look back at Anna's baby photos and remember what a privilege it was getting to know her, and having her so attached to me. I'm amazed that she was ever so uncoordinated, incapable of barking demands at me like the tiny drill sergeant she's become — how did I ever know that she needed juice, like, rightthisgoddamnsecond?

I believe there are big moments — huge, lifetime occurrences that you can absorb while they're happening. You can nudge your brain to store exactly how you feel — whatever pride, confidence, joy is there: Remember this. But I think that telling someone to pay attention when they're doing the minute-by-minute work of motherhood is something like asking them to recount precisely what their labor pains felt like — it's vague, you know it hurt like a motherfucker, but there's some blessed evolutionary mechanism that makes it a hazy impression minutes after it's over.

It's not fair for moms to be told to pay closer attention, appreciate this moment, to love even the shitty, crazymaking afternoons of tantrums and frustration, and it's just not possible. You could spend so much energy trying to record discreet events that you forget to actually be there for them. Besides, isn't that what Facebook is for?

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