Yesterday, as I stood leaning against the kitchen sink watching H play while I made dinner, she locked eyes with me and broke out into her biggest Cheshire grin, the one that reminds me so much of her father.
As she smiled her sneaky smile and shook herself silly in the exersaucer, my mind was absorbed by all of the amazing things I have seen (and have yet to see) her do. There are hundreds of these tiny moments that just catch me by surprise. Where did she learn to smile like that? How does she know to clap and dance the moment she hears music on the radio? I'm amazed.
And I know I'm not alone in my amazement of my child. There are constant reminders on my Facebook and Instagram feeds of just how amazing my friends kids are, too. "Look, my daughter can eat peas!" "Can you believe my son is already starting to walk? He's not even a year old!" Obviously we all think our kids are more amazing the the rest, which begs the question of how amazing they really are.
Before H, I use to roll my eyes at these pronouncements. And to be perfectly honest, a part of me still does find them theatrical. And it wasn't until that moment in the kitchen, with H smiling slyly up at me, that I understood why I feel this way. My generation is one that was told our our baby-boomer parents that we were SPECIAL, that we would change the world. That we were somehow above-average, extraordinary, better than everyone else. And so it is easy to see why we project these same expectations on our own children. They ARE special. They ARE extraordinary. And, let's be perfectly honest: Even if I don't come right out and say it, we all know my son or daughter is DEFINITELY better than yours.
At least that is the subtle message I take away from the non-stop celebrating of the most mundane moments. That is why I was among the thousands of childless people who groaned and rolled my eyes every time I read yet another Facebook post about my parent friends' ah-MA-zing babies.
"They are just being babies," I would complain to my husband (in my exasperated voice that sounds just like my mother's). "They are doing things that ever single baby since the dawn of mankind has done: pooped, peed, cried, and eventually walked and talked and turned into an adult! Why are we celebrating something that happens to millions of people every day?" But then. Oh, but then.
Then I became a mom. And I realized that yes, my baby does all of the things that babies do. There is nothing special about the idea of a baby learning to sit up or eat solid food or speak our language. But what is special is that MY baby is doing these things. MY baby that came out of MY body. MY baby who is the most perfect (accidental) display of the love that my husband and I have for each other.
No, H is not better than any other baby simply because she can perform an ordinary baby activity like feeding herself or drinking from a straw. Big deal…I've been doing those things for years.
But at the same time, as her mother, I cannot be anything but amazed when she does something ordinary. It is the sheer fact that what she is doing IS ordinary that amazes me, not the thing itself. To me, it is not "she is WALKING!" but "SHE is walking!"
It is hard for someone who does not have children to understand why we parents feel the need to broadcast our little celebrations and why we seemingly expect everyone to share in the elation we feel when our baby makes a mess of her dinner for the first time ("but that's so disgusting!"). That is not to saying anything negative about people who do not have kids. Being a mom doesn't mean I'm better than you, it just means my perspective is different. "Different" is inherently neutral. It is simply an observation, an apples-to-oranges comparison.
And I know it's hard to understand because I've been there.
Now that I am on the other side, and I see the miraculous in the everyday. Because every single time I watch H pick up a tiny blueberry with her squishy little fingers, I remember that just a few months ago she couldn't even hold a toy in her hand! About a year ago, she wouldn't even open her hands out of fists! And now she is PINCHING! It is a miracle that can only truly be recognized by someone who has experienced the revelation the daily observations of a brand-new, growing human being.
Our parents told us that we could grow up to be the President of the United States or create an artistic masterpiece, that all we had to do was choose what we wanted and we could do it. I think it's safe to say that as a generation we've become at least somewhat disillusioned as to our opportunities in life. (This "being an adult" thing is hard, ya'll. Wasn't I supposed to change the world or something?)
But our parents told us those things because they were amazed by us. And now I get it. I know H can do anything she wants because I watch her do new things all the time. That is why I celebrate things like blueberries. That's why we parents celebrate the little things.
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