Last night after dinner my son asked for a bowl of ice cream. He sat quietly in his booster seat and carefully guided each spoonful into his mouth and with about three bites left, he handed me the bowl and said, “All done axe-cream.” I sat there and looked at him in amazement. Partly because how could a child of mine not finish a scoop of ice cream, but mostly because he is a kid. A full blown CHILD who uses a spoon and tells me when he’s finished and while he still craps his pants, he’s lost almost every glimmer of babyness and replaced it with kid things like nose-picking and matchbox cars.
And somehow we got to this place after two years of holding my breath that every little decision I was making was absolutely critical to his future development.
We finger-fed our jaundice boy formula in his first days of life as we impatiently waited 95 hours for my milk to come in. I was told that nipple shields/bottles/formula would forever jeopardize our ability to breastfeed. I pumped in the middle of the night until he was 16 months old and now I am getting ready to dump 1,000 ounces of expired milk from our freezer that my son never drank, because we’re still nursing.
We swaddled him for every nap and every sleep, despite people telling us he would become “addicted” to it or it would damage his hips or inhibit our breastfeeding relationship until one day around 6 months, he broke out of the wrap, never to be swaddled again.
He didn’t walk until he was nearly 17-months-old. He didn’t eat solid foods until well after a year. I bought every sippy cup on the market only to have them shoved back in my face by my stubborn boy. He started drinking from a straw cup when he was 7-months-old and is now learning how to tip a big boy cup. He even started drinking cow’s milk last month, something I’ve been pressured to introduce for the last year.
We fretted over eating dinner at the coffee table while our baby sat in the bouncer because apparently we weren’t demonstrating what family meals “look like.” Now we don’t even OWN a coffee table and I couldn’t have imagined what these family meals would look like if I tried. There is food throwing, and spitting out, and laughing, and sticky hair and more fun (and mess) than I knew was possible at the dinner table.
The tiny decisions are fewer and fewer and these days we’re dealing with bigger things like potty training and manners but the difference is that now, I know it will happen. My kid will eventually sit on the toilet to poop. It may not be today or even in the next year, but one day he’ll be basking in the aroma of his own feces while checking his email, just like his daddy.
Being a new parent is horrifying and I’m forever grateful that I will never have to be a first time mother again. I will never have to take people’s birth stories into account, because I have my own. I will nod and smile when people tell me that my child should be doing ___ by now. My husband and I lament over all of the things people said: “Oh don’t do _____, it will be a bad habit you’ll never be able to break him of…” Our son outgrew swaddling/nursing to sleep/crying at bedtime. We survived teething, and a bloody lip and a trip to the emergency room with a 106 degree fever. We’ve been puked on, pooped on, exhausted, exhilarated and emerged fully willing and capable of replicating this process. Only I have my own gold standard now and I won’t freak out if my next child doesn’t want rice cereal shoved in his face at 6 months. I know my body is more than capable of producing enough milk for a human child, and I’ll trust in my ability to supervise as a helpless bundle blossoms into a child who eats ice cream with a spoon. And next time, I hope I’ll breathe a little easier. Right from the start.