The heartache and joy of saying goodbye to the baby years

 In MOM, Parenting

The heartache and joy of saying goodbye to the baby years is upon our house.

There is a tender awareness these past few months as our youngest, and last, has transitioned through her third birthday and away from so many of the things that once and for so long defined parenthood.

From the moment we learned we were expecting our first, I felt as if I had walked into an alternate universe, one where I would have to learn how to live all over again. To be perfectly honest, it felt like moving to a different country.

How do I leave the house? I don’t know what to bring? How do I pack this diaper bag? How many spare outfits do I need? How many diapers? Should I stash some formula in case I’m too nervous to breastfeed in public? How do I even put ON this baby wrap and why on Earth does contain twelve miles of fabric and weigh as much as the baby? How do I navigate my apartment’s exit with this stroller, down and then up stairs?

But then it happens, you fumble through because there is no alternative. What seemed alien becomes your new normal. You collapse strollers with ease. You juggle your baby who becomes a toddler and then the new baby and celebrate setting speed records for getting them dressed for a winter walk. You can change a diaper without a changing table, without getting gunk where it shouldn’t be. You are a pro.

Meanwhile, every moment, they grow.

For a while, the growth means little more than heavier weight to carry, bigger diapers to buy, bigger bottles with bigger sip-top lids. Changes come gradually and you may not even notice that you’re going through fewer diapers, that they are walking more than riding in the stroller.

I watched the changes and celebrated milestones along the way.

But this transition to 3 years old struck me deeply.

In the span of a couple of months, our youngest grew out of her crib, daytime diapers and naps and I realized, we had just witnessed the disappearance of the last vestiges of baby.

The other night, she was struggling to sleep with a stuffy nose and she was coughing in her sleep. I went in to hold her upright for a bit so that her lungs could settle. I picked her up in the familiar snuggle, her legs dangled at my hips, her chin rested at my shoulder.

I thought back to the days after her birth, which came a month too soon. She had a slight bit of respiratory distress syndrome and made high pitched noises when she breathed. We called her squeak. Her newborn weight loss brought her already small body down to 5 pounds and I could barely sense her weight upon my chest. But it was there that the squeaks could fade, her lungs could settle and there I felt peace.

Every parent is different and every parent will have a favorite childhood phase.

While I look back fondly at the sweet moments, snuggling, being needed for everything, watching personalities and preferences develop seemingly out of thin air, and hilariously, frustratingly changing moment to moment, I don’t bemoan my children’s growth.

When the day-to-day grind of parenting comes to a halt in my mind and I see the girls more clearly, I’m amazed.

The table where my husband and I sat alone and had slow dinners, replaced by chaos. The couch where I sat for the better part of two years nursing babies and holding them while they slept now a trampoline. We have arrived squarely, crazily into kid phase and I’m loving (most of) it.

Learning to ride bikes and create more complex sentences. Drinking from cups and rarely needing a bib. Watching the youngest play with her older sister and her first attempts at jokes.

I cherish the baby memories but I’m happy to be past (for the most part) sleepless nights and planning days around naps. I really, really won’t miss the diapers.

What about you? What phase of your child’s life really struck you?

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Showing 6 comments
  • Claire Doble
    Reply

    How lovely. Something in my eye…. But yes, I agree, that every new phase as my kids grow is my “favourite” I just love seeing them turning into people and becoming more independent and knowing they will one day be able to face the world without me because they’re the people I’ve helped them become. Sorry I am rambling!

    • Tara McLaughlin
      Reply

      I love the ramblings of parents 🙂 thanks for reading and taking the time to ramble. Sometimes I look at them in such awe (when I’m not trying to get them into bed for the tenth time) and I’m so excited for them, exploring their own skin. And now I’m rambling. 😉

  • Tanya
    Reply

    I’m still sad about the long lost baby years even though my baby is already 8. You are always saying goodbye to one thing and hello to the next thing when raising kids.

    • Tara McLaughlin
      Reply

      So true! I think sometimes it’s the reason I longed for a third. Just keep having babies and you’ll never have to face this. 😉

  • Tamara
    Reply

    Oh Tara, what a beautiful post!
    A sad one, too.

    When you’re a new mom, people will tell you to enjoy the little one cause they would grow up so quickly.
    Bla, bla, bla, you think. One day follows the next, the little one won’t sleep when they’re supposed to, poop just as you’re supposed to leave the house to be somewhere on time, you’re exhausted, and you don’t feel they grow up at all.

    And then, boom, they turn 3!!!

    Or they’re 7.5 and say “Mom, today I’ll make breakfast for you” And they do. And then they want to know how many Pannini stickers they have earned….

    • Tara McLaughlin
      Reply

      poop when you’re leaving the house, oh yes, or when you’ve potty trained and gotten a mile into your afternoon walk. it’s all a ride, isn’t it! I love the breakfast story. 🙂 Congrats!

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