This week my son will be nine months old. Somehow, nine months became a major milestone to me. Now, Siddhartha is a grown up infant, almost a toddler. Soon he’ll be walking and he’ll say his first word. (If he hasn’t already. We’re still unsure whether he understands that it means something when he says, “hi”.)
In his first few months, the minutes felt like hours, the hours, like days. When people say that they grow up so fast, they fail to mention that you have to get past those first few months first. At that time, we wanted nothing more than for our son to be older. We were insecure, sleep deprived and we felt panicked. Also, he cried. A lot.
I don’t know if it’s the hormones or if it’s a result of feeling the weight of an immense responsibility coupled with new parent vulnerability, but hearing your newborn cry has the effect of being stabbed in the stomach with a needle filled with parasitic worms. It hurts and then it feels like something is swimming in your belly. All you can think about is making it stop, immediately.
Something else people will rarely admit. Newborns are an immense amount of work for very little return. Suddenly, you are committed to giving conscious attention every second to a project that will not let you sleep nor eat and you can’t back down. Your interactions with the baby are routine. You feed him, change his diaper, and try desperately to calm the crying hoping that he’ll finally sleep. You start to wonder, when will he reach out for me? When can we go to the park? When will he smile?
Then, sometime in that first few months, he smiles. At first, you’re not sure if it’s real or just gas, but then he flashes a big one. And then he giggles. After months of feeling down, you’re on a high. But then he wakes every hour that night and you want to cry again. So it goes.
Now that Siddhartha is almost nine months old, I’m surprised by how fast we got here. There are still rough times: food sensitivity is still a problem, his naps are mostly 20 minute cat naps, it’s takes some effort to get him to sleep (a lot for anyone except me…and sometimes a lot for me too), and I’ve mostly given up the idea of anyone but me getting him to sleep at night. But he’s fun! He’s the smiliest kid I know and every week he’s doing some exciting new thing like throwing a ball or pointing at things.
These days we’re basking in the light rather than desperately searching for it in a dark tunnel and I’m starting to see how watching my son grow could be bittersweet. He needs me more than anyone ever has and it’s exhausting, but on the days when it’s gets to be too much I try to remind myself that one day he won’t want to hang out with his mom much. All too soon, he’ll stop reaching out for me and falling asleep in my arms. Tiring as it may be, I’m going to soak it up while I can, before I blink and my nine-month-old is eighteen.
When did your kids begin to want to play with their friends more than with you and how did you handle it? Do you have any strategies for making the most out of his or her early years without getting burned out?