This year, I have a renewed appreciation for the holidays. I’m still stressed out and wishing I didn’t have quite so many things to do in a relatively short amount of time. I am SO not looking forward to traveling with a baby again and dragging the thousand extra pounds of gear with us. I’m especially not looking forward to the flight home when I’ll be flying solo with Jackson, along with his car seat and stroller and travel crib and inflatable high chair and inflatable tub and whatever gifts Santa — and everyone else — might give him. But despite that, I am enjoying the holidays this year more than I have in seasons past, and it’s because now I appreciate the lovely way we use the season to mark the passing of time.
I didn’t care about the passing of time too much before. What does the passing of time mean, anyway? That I’m getting older and closer to death — that my skin (and other things) are getting saggier — that people are starting to call me ma’am instead of miss? Great! But that’s not what the passing of time means to me so much anymore. I mean, yes, it is still those things, for sure. But now it’s also about watching my son grow up, and that’s a pretty cool thing.
This is my second holiday season as a mom, which means it’s my first holiday season I get to compare Jackson to how he was the year before. And this year he is SO different. He’s walking now! And he’s started talking. He says: “Dada,” “Mama,” “Bye-Bye,” and “Thank you” (well, it’s “AY-EW,” really, but close enough). And I swear, he’s saying, “I love you,” but it sounds more like “EYE-AH-EW,” and no one else would ever think he was saying, “I love you,” but I’m his mom and I know that’s what he’s trying to say, I know.
So, it’s a big difference from last year when all he did was lie there and cry and poop and cry some more. I loved him then, of course, but I really love him now. I mean, I love HIM, not the idea of him. I love him, because I’m beginning to learn who he is. He’s sweet — he’s so sweet. And he’s funny, and he’s a big clown. He has a temper like his mama, but the kind heart of his dad. And these are all things I didn’t know about him a year ago, so when we do things like light the Hanukkah candles or hang Christmas ornaments on the tree or walk around the neighborhood and look at the lights in all the windows, it takes me back to a year ago and it reminds me just how much changes when you have a small child. It reminds me how quickly they grow and how fleeting our time with them is.
This is true for everyone, whether you have a child or not. Time goes fast. But it just seems so much more obvious when you have kids. And — at least for me — the holiday season has become a reminder to appreciate the time we have with each other and to celebrate the growth and changes of the last year.
Drew and I went to a holiday party Saturday night (we’re getting ready to go out in that photo above). It’s a party our friends throw every year and we look forward to it and always have a good time, but this year was different. We had booked the sitter for 6 hours — from 8-2, and even as we were leaving I was like, “I’ll probably be home before two!” because the idea of staying out that late when I’m usually in bed by 10 — and, more importantly, awake by 6:30 — was exhausting. But that’s not what happened at all.
What happened was we had so much fun and the time went too fast and before I knew it, it was 11, and then it was 12, and then it was 1. And when it turned 1, I turned to Drew and said, “We only have one hour left! We have to enjoy every second.” It was as if I thought we’d turn into pumpkins at 2. But that was only because it was one of those nights, you know? We had good food and good rum punch and most of our friends, some of whom we just don’t get to see very much these days, were all in one place and everyone was looking good and feeling good and we didn’t want it to end. But 2 o’clock came and we had to go home and we didn’t turn into pumpkins.
But time is fleeting. For better or worse, 2 o’clock always comes. Every party has an end. And every year comes to a close. It’s always been like that, and it always will be. And that’s both comforting and bittersweet. And one day, when Jackson is lighting the Hanukkah candles or helping to decorate the tree and I’ll know him even more than today and I’ll love him even more than I do now, and the idea that he won’t always be my baby won’t just be an idea anymore, I’ll recognize that ache. It will be the same ache every mother since the beginning of time has felt when she watches her children grow. It is both comforting and so very bittersweet.