Jackson turns 1 1/2 in a few days! He’s clearly not a baby anymore and, while I’ve mourned the end of his infancy, I’m discovering that I much prefer mothering a toddler to mothering a baby. Jackson is endlessly curious, is fast to laugh, and expresses so much love for me and Drew and others that every day I think my heart may explode. That’s not to say that things have necessarily gotten easier, but, for me, they’ve definitely gotten better. And along the way, I’ve learned some pretty important life lessons:
1. Life is short.
Of course, I knew this before having kids, but there’s a difference between knowing something intellectually and knowing it emotionally. And watching my child grow from a tiny, squishy, wrinkled-up newborn to a real-life walking, talking little kid in a blink of an eye has made the intellectual very emotional for me. It is true what so many parents have said to me: it does go fast. And now, as my grandparents move into their nineties and my parents begin their retired life, I am beginning to feel the fate of my own mortality a bit more acutely. Our lives are mere wisps on a timeline, and now, more than ever, I want to make the most of it.
2. This too shall pass.
One of the great things about life being short and time moving so quickly is that what seems insurmountable today will be a distant memory by next week. And when one stage of a child’s life is particularly challenging, just wait a few days and he’ll have moved on to something else. Even things like colds, which seem to last forever when your young kid has one, rarely last more than two weeks, and if you summon the strength, gather your reserves, ask for and take whatever help is offered, you can get through two weeks, easy.
3. Naps are good.
I was never much of a napper before having Jackson, and, in all honesty, I’m still not. I tend to feel guilty if I sleep in the middle of the day (as if I’m somehow being more productive farting around online or reading a magazine or staring at a TV screen). But on the few occasions I’ve given in to the urge and let myself rest when Jackson does, it feels so, so good. I figure in another year — right about the time he’s giving them up — I will finally embrace the daily nap myself.
4. Details count, but the small stuff isn’t important.
Details, like packing a spare outfit in the diaper bag and bringing some form of ID to the airport, matter. Small stuff, like how it takes a friend two weeks to call you back or you’re out of coffee and have to go to the store first thing in the morning or else forgo your caffeine fix, do not. It took me 36 years to begin to understand this lesson, and if you ask my husband, who has to deal with me first thing in the morning and when I have PMS and when I’m crashing from low blood sugar, I probably still have a ways to go.
5. Curb-side check-in beats all.
When you’re traveling with 600 extra pounds of gear — car seat, booster seat, travel crib, stroller, diapers, and a shit ton of animal crackers — curb-side check-in is just way more convenient than lugging all that crap inside and waiting in line and then dragging it all the way to the checked-bag drop-off. But it turns out it is also cheaper too! Friendly tip: slip the agents a nice tip (say $3-$5 bucks per item you’re checking) and you may just find that they waive your checking fee. While I can’t guarantee anything, this has worked for us every single time we’ve done it (a couple times, the agents even made sure our fees were waived for the return trip as well!).
6. If someone doesn’t like you, who cares?
Watching toddlers interact is awesome because they so clearly wear their hearts on their sleeves. You always know whom they like and whom they don’t like. I’ve seen Jackson be dissed (and do the dissing) lots of times on the playground, and while my heart always cracks a little bit at the sign of anyone rejecting my sweet son, he doesn’t give a flying fuck! Sure, this is likely to change as he ages and social dynamics among his peer set shift, but for now, when someone gives him the what-for, he just shrugs his shoulders and moves on already, without the slightest hint of hurt feelings. Because what’s the point of dwelling on someone who clearly doesn’t recognize awesome when he or she sees it when there are lots of other potential playmates and good times to be had?