12 October 2010

Face Forward

As a new parent, your life starts to become charted by an assortment of sometimes odd, child-centric markers and milestones, such as number of days without a bowel movement (him, not us), consecutive hours of sleep (both), amount of milk consumed in a day (again him, not us). Some very minor (did not fuss about bedtime), others more major (first tooth, haircut, night-long sleep) and countless more in between.

Recently, we encountered one on the more major end of the spectrum. After two-plus years of riding in a car seat in a rear-facing position, we turned the car seat around and the Doozer found himself, for the very first time, in the front-facing position.

This occasion prompted me to consider the constantly accelerating pace of our son's development—and how we would desperately like it to stop.

I'm kidding, of course, but one does discover in parenthood an interesting, often perplexing dichotomy: the shifting, opposing desires of wanting to see your baby grow up into a real person and at the same time, desperate for them to remain the tiny little creature you've grown so accustomed to in your life.

Facing forward in the car seat, along with clothes that are now too small, a mouthful of teeth, and a streak of independence a mile-wide (stop running away, kid, we just want to hold you and squeeze you and keep you close forever, that's all) are major indicators of growth. Of your wee Doozer becoming, alas, a very big boy, indeed.

And it's a real struggle, sometimes. When you have to pack away miniature outfits that no longer fit, it can bring on waves of nostalgia. Never mind if he only wore said outfit on one occasion and promptly soiled it with pasta sauce, it remains the single most adorable item of clothing in the history of the world . . . as well as a cruel harbinger of time's inevitable, unceasing forward march. Never mind that in actuality it's nothing more than a piece of consumer propaganda from a major corporation like the Gap ("So cute! He has to have this."), the wellspring of emotion it inspires cannot be denied or ignored.

You constantly lament the days gone by and the fact that he is not a baby anymore. Which can be weird, because sometimes he was little more than a screaming, crying, snot-ridden poop machine, who peed on your favorite MC5 T-shirt and turned you into a miserable zombie after countless sleepless nights of unremitting, unrelenting caterwauling (him, not us . . . usually), you still can't help but miss those days and that tiny creature.

And yet, simultaneously, you're always curious about the person he's becoming, that he will develop into. You long for the day when you can have an actual conversation with the kid. An honest-to-goodness exchange of ideas, not lopsided, one-sided discussions. What sort of questions will he ask? What will he talk about when he's 5? 6? 10?

You even find yourself curious about his teenage self, those wilderness years when all kids seem to rebel and pull away from their parents. Maybe his will be different, maybe we will manage to still connect with him, to crack the impossible code and maintain some shred of hipness that allows our kid to still relate to us. Perhaps we can be like one of those TV families, the ones where the kids say they hate their parents in the opening minutes, then 60 (or 30) short minutes later, all is resolved when it's revealed that father and child share a love of Bob Dylan or Woody Allen that unites them in familial harmony.

At least until next week at 9 o'clock.

Maybe we'll get really lucky and have one of those Rory and Lorelai Gilmore relationships, allowing us to have closely aligned interests and temperaments and —

Wait. He's going to hate Gilmore Girls, isn't he? He's going to find it dated and lame and hopelessly out-of-touch, right? We're just screwed, aren't we?

Please don't grow up, Doozer. We can just turn that car seat right back around . . .

"I'm in the back seat!" the Doozer exclaims, obviously thrilled.

(Apparently this was not clear to him in the previous configuration.)

He's so happy with his newfound view. Okay, so maybe we can let you grow up . . . a little.

Just not so fast, okay?

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