Raising a child isn’t just about the milestones you can log in a baby book. For me, it’s more about the snippets of life that show you who a kid is, bit by bit. Check out my favorites from my son’s life so far.
There are loads of things I’m awesome at when it comes to parenting.1 Like the gross stuff. Poop, urine, vomit,2 blood—I am impossible to faze when it comes to liquids coming out of my child’s various orifices.
I’ve got empathy down, too. When my son JR is sad or embarrassed I find it easy to relate to him and, in doing so, comfort him fairly quickly. He sees me as a safe place to land, and situations when his emotions run high are when I shine.3
And playing store? Forget it. Never in all your days will you find an individual more committed to her portrayal of a grumpy, gum chewing grocery clerk tapping away at a Fisher Price cash register.4
Now if we were to shift to the topic of parental suckage—or, if we’re being kind, “shortcomings”—I’d also be able to come up with a few choice examples of how I repeatedly drop the ball. But in my mind, the most glaring example is my consistent failure to commemorate (or sometimes even just remember) the “big” things—at least in a way you would deem special or meaningful (i.e. something beyond a tweet or a photo posted on Instagram).
I tried for a while. In fact, I did pretty well those first couple months, filling JR’s baby book with details like the date of his first real smile and notes on his early sleeping patterns. But as he got older, our efforts kind of fizzled out. Now his baby book basically functions as a really messy file folder, haphazardly stuffed with cards and papers that I’ve deemed worthy of saving but not worthy of putting in any sort of decipherable order. I honestly have no idea when he rolled over or when he called me Mama for the first time. And as horrible as it sounds, I don’t think we have a single picture from his second or third birthdays actually in our possession.5
But the thing is, I don’t really care.
I mean, I realize it’s important to know this stuff about your kid–to help him track his life story. But for me, JR’s story is less about the milestones graduating him from one developmental stage to the next, and more about the “snippets”, if you will. You know, those moments that carved a space for him in my heart and help him show, bit by bit, the little person that he is.
Even though JR isn’t quite four years old, he’s already given me a limitless supply of these snippets to keep tucked away. Here I’ll share a handful of them with you–a collection of parental moments that will be with me always…and reveals more about the ins and outs of the life we share than a baby book6 ever could.
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1. Somebody’s actually in there!
I sat on the edge of the couch, my eight-months-pregnant belly hunching me over the laundry basket on the floor in front of me. As I reached down to grab another towel, our dog, Zapp, perked up from her nap as a fire truck’s siren blared a couple blocks away. Suddenly she let out brain-splitting howl…and the baby in my belly actually jumped. At that moment I fully realized that our lives would never be the same. Not the positive pregnancy test, not the ultrasounds, not my growing circumference–it took my dog scaring the bejeezus out of my unborn kid to make me realize that we were really having a kid in the first place.
2. “He wants to hear your voice.”
After he was born, the doctors and nurses asked what his name was. I was too busy sobbing to speak, so my husband answered.
“His name is Jackson Ross.”
I said it so many times before he was born; we’d been open about our name choices from the beginning, so most people knew we’d go with Jackson if we ended up with a boy. But once I gave birth, and he was lying there in my arms, it took me a while to actually say it—to say out loud and to him. I suppose the weight of the moment was too much for me to process.
I didn’t say it until we were back in the recovery room and my nurse gently encouraged me to talk to him.
“Just say his name, honey. Tell him his name. He wants to hear your voice.”
So I did. Over and over again, letting us each slowly settle into each other.
3. That time at Costco
We were at Costco getting ready to enjoy the wonder that is their $1.50 hot dog and fountain drink special, and I was beyond stoked.7 What made this lunch particularly exciting was the fact that this was one of our first outings since JR had perfected sitting in his own seat. No more high chairs! No more holding a baby on my lap with one hand while trying to eat with the other! No more saving him from randomly toppling over! So I thought!
I swear to you, I turned my head for a fraction of a second. When I looked back to where JR was supposed to be sitting, he wasn’t there. Instead he was lying face first on the floor. The CONCRETE floor. Not making any noise.
Thankfully, when I picked him up I realized he was, in fact, conscious, and simply engaged in one of those purpley-faced silent screams that children use to break your heart over and over again until they’re ready to return to their natural color. He was also completely fine. Eventually I was, too. However, I get to relive this moment whenever we walk into Costco because JR likes to look at me and say, “Hey, remember that time I fell?” I’m quite convinced he does this to keep me from getting too big for my parenting britches.8
4. Baby’s first joke
JR, what would you like for breakfast?
What would you like on your toast?
Butter and jam.
What kind of jam would you like?
Purple jam… POOP JAM!
We were so proud.
5. The little gentleman
“When she gets here, I want her to eat her dinner next to me,” JR insisted, scooting over to make a place for his favorite (and prettiest) friend at the picnic table. The after-church cookout was underway, and he kept glancing at the door, willing this little girl (who happens to be the pastor’s youngest child—their family tends to get hung up after the service) to walk through it.
When she finally arrived, JR waved her over. As she climbed onto the bench, he gently touched her arm and said ever so seriously, “Are you hungry? Can I make you a plate?”
6. Peaches and persistence
He’d just come off a spectacular nap—you know the kind where they wake up all disoriented and sweaty?—and was ready for a snack. We each grabbed a peach from the brown paper bag on the counter and headed out to the porch. Neither of us said a word. He watched the birds flying around the backyard, and I watched him turn that peach over and over in his fingers, quietly determined to get every nibble he could.
It took him a while, but he finally got every last chunk of fruit off of that peach. Then, without missing a beat, he reached over and started in on mine.
7. Let the rhythm move you
Ok, I did manage to commemorate this one–on video even! But it really wasn’t necessary; it’s a moment that is forever burned on my brain. I hope he always dances with such spirit and reckless abandon…and I hope he won’t mind seeing this projected onto a big screen at his wedding reception someday.
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I’d love to hear about the snippets you’ve got stored away about your kids. Feel free to share them below. Or, you know, just comment on my kid’s sweet dance moves. Whatevs.
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- If I do say so myself. And when warranted, I do. You should, too! ↩
- This works out especially well for my husband who is paralyzed when faced with vomit. ↩
- It’s the small stuff that really gets me. For example, our daily dance of “OMG JUST PUT ON YOUR SHOES” sends me into an existential crisis over how I’m clearly ruining my child, and I’m not fit to be anyone’s mother. ↩
- Don’t even think of asking me to recreate this for you. 1) I only perform for people who are too young to judge me and 2) I’m not your monkey, ok? ↩
- I’m sure they’re out there on the Internet somewhere. If any of you run across one, do me a solid and send it my way. ↩
- At least any baby book that I could ever keep up. Consider my hat off to anyone who is able to consistently document his/her child’s life in this way. And for what it’s worth, I will look at anyone’s baby book at any time–probably with a level of enthusiasm that’s borderline creepy. ↩
- I never claimed to be fancy. ↩
- It works. ↩