Monday, April 20, 2009

Five Years

My firstborn daughter's fifth birthday is six weeks away, and I've recently begun to consider some birthday party plans. This means I've had opportunity to muse on this whole notion of five years, that my first baby could actually almost be five years old. Five years! How can it be? Is that even possible? I sit here and think about how big she is, how long five years really is, and truth be told, I can hardly remember the actual details of her infant self, of how she felt on my shoulder or how she looked in her crib. You think you'll never forget these things, but you do.

A lot happens in five years! You can go from total neophyte parent, completely ignorant of all things baby, steeped in the kind of naive idiocy you can hardly fathom now--How could we have been confused by the introduction of solid food? Why did it seem so complicated? Or, Can you believe we didn't know we'd never really sleep again?--all the way to experienced mother of two, with the rhythms of baby/toddler-parenting so ingrained in your existence that when a childless friend asks you, "How does a person know she's ready to give up all her selfish needs, her freedom, and have a baby? How do you even stand that kind of sacrifice?", you actually give some surely incomprehensible response about it not being that hard, really, about how when it's your own baby you just do it and it's fine in the end. It's as if you don't even remember, or any longer experience in a visceral way, the years of sleep deprivation and fatigue-induced panic, the hours of colic-crying, the months of nursing every two hours around the clock and a baby who wouldn't take a bottle, the times you went for weeks without speaking to another adult during the day, just paced back and forth across the floor with a fussy infant, wondering what you were doing wrong and how you'd ever survive it. You look at your nearly-five-year-old daughter now and you think, Well, here we are, and look at this big kid I've got here, with her jokes and large vocabulary and ability to brush her own teeth. You don't think about how when you first brought her home from the hospital she cried every single night from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. for the first four weeks of her life.

Except when you do. And then five years seems so, so short--just a flash, really.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine with kids my girls' ages, and we were bemoaning the usual minor conundrums of preschooler-parenting life--what to bring for school snack, the healthy option or the cheap one--and I said to her, "Just think though: in ten years the things we'll be concerned about will be things like missed curfews and dating and keeping them from alcohol and drugs and having sex too soon, and we'll look back on the question of preschool snack as the ultimate luxury when it comes to parenting worries. We'll want to cry! Oh, if only our biggest concern was how healthy their preschool snack is!, we'll say to each other! Remember when our biggest worry was preschool snack?!"

So there you have it. Five years is really short. And also really long. And then short again. And sometimes long.

And I have a feeling that's how it's going to go for the rest of life.


Mnmom said...

Like they say, the first 40 years of parenting is the hardest!

Anonymous said...

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Donna said...