When I first had Lily, everyone told me to enjoy every moment of babyhood — because it would be over before I knew it.
It’s one of the many things you hear over and over from seasoned parents — they say that right after they say “sleep when the baby sleeps!”
(As an aside, apparently when they learn you are expecting a second child while sporting a toddler on your hip, those same seasoned parents don’t have as much advice. Instead, they look at you with a mixture of surprise and empathy and offer all the encouragement they can muster: “Wow. You’ll have your hands full.” Thus affirming the sneaking suspicion I had that there will be no sleeping when the baby sleeps this next go around.)
There were some endless nights when it seemed as if Lily’s babyhood would last forever.
And then there were other nights when, while rocking her to sleep, I’d marvel at her smallness and wish that I’d always be able to cradle that warm, little bundle.
Lily, of course, has other plans.
Looking at pictures taken at the same time last year, I am astounded at how much she’s changed. And how it feels like both an eternity and a day have passed in the span of a year.
Those seasoned parents are on to something.
Last January, we gave Lily her first bowl of rice cereal. In the pictures, she sat propped up in a Bumbo on our kitchen table, starring skeptically at the spoon. She’s bald and barely fills out the pajamas sized for a newborn.
She couldn’t sit up on her own. I’d lay her down in one spot, leave the room and come back and she’d be in the same spot (and most likely be crying about having been abandoned).
“Congratulations on being amazing,” I wrote to her in a journal entry on Jan. 12, 2011, after she rolled over for the first time. I had no idea just how amazing she’d become.
Last week, I had to interview a source for a story while 16-month-old Lily was underfoot (normally, I wait until nap time to do work).
During the length of the phone call, she dumped the dog’s water on the floor; knocked a majority of the magnetic letters off the refrigerator; removed various kitchen implements from various cabinets; broke into the pantry, offering the dog the spoils of her raid, which included fistfuls of Honey Crunchin’ Oats and a few graham crackers; gobbled three banana cookies; removed the cash and various cards from my wallet; and littered the floor with packets of oatmeal and granola bars.
The funniest thing I’ve found about being a parent is that at every stage, I’ve wished that Lily were frozen in that moment.
That she’d always be snuggled in the nook of my arm.
That she’d always have a toothless smile.
That I’d always hear the smack of her little hands on the tile as she crawled across the kitchen.
That she’d always have entire conversations in jibberish, waiting for me to nod in agreement to whatever she’s saying.
That she’d always screech in glee and throw her hands up in the air while running out of her room naked, escaping a fresh diaper.
And that stupid Disney World commercial with the little girl in the Cinderella dress, running around as a voiceover points out “there’s only so many days before she finds her own Prince Charming,” doesn’t help.
Every time it comes on, my throat knots and I’m compelled to sear into my mind’s eye, every single second of Lily’s life.
But somehow the thrill of watching her figure out the world outweighs the sadness of her babyhood flashing by.
A few weeks ago as I was about to put her down in the crib for the night, she amazed me yet again: She looked right into my eyes, smiled and then wrapped her arms around my neck, laying her head on my shoulder.
Her first hug.
Take that, Disney World.
Susan Jennings is mom to Lily, 1; Snacks the dog; and Bart, Peanut Butter and Delaney the cats; and wife to Brad the human. Become a fan at facebook.com/smartmagazine and follow us @SmartMagPA on Twitter, too!