Do you remember me mentioning “The Handbook?” It’s how my parents always used to explain why they did what they did when it came to me…it was “in the parenting handbook.”
Now as we’ve discussed, you did not actually come with a handbook or any other kind of cheat sheet. But before I had you, before I even really considered whether or not I wanted to be a mother someday, I just assumed that it was every parent’s job to teach their children. Of course, what you taught your children could vary, but the fact that it was your job to teach something to them was just set in stone.
This weekend, I got to watch you while The B’s went to a local tourist attraction that we have in my hometown. We watched Elmo ( a lot of Elmo), played with a toy kitchen that I had when I was little, played in the bathroom sink, played the piano and did a lot of other little stuff in between. And I got to teach you some things – how to lock and unlock the door to the porch, how to turn the lights on and off on the lawn mower (Pop-pop 3 helped with that one). True, they’re little things, but we taught them to you and you picked them up pretty fast.
I have known for a while that I have the ability to teach you things - that thanks to your observational skills, I was a role model to you. But one of the beautiful things about a parent-child relationship, especially ours, is that the learning is not just one-sided. Believe it or not, at the young age of 19 months (as of Wednesday), you have actually taught me quite a few things too.
On a small scale, you’ve taught me a lot of little things. That climbing the stairs – over and over and over again – can be fun (when I’m not terrified for your safety). You’ve taught me that splashing around in the sink can be a rather entertaining activity. You taught me that things that aren’t designed to be play toys (i.e. measuring cups, keys, etc.) can most definitely be play toys. You taught me a new way to say “hot dog” and “tractor” (“dot dog” and “at-too”). You taught me that we should all play now and sleep later. You reminded me that I used to love Sesame Street. You reminded me that when you’re little, every day is truly a new day.
Aside from these things, I’ve also learned quite a few big, life lessons from you.
The first one you taught me was not to be afraid of babies. embarrassing as this is to admit, I was mildly terrified of infants before I had you. I thought they were adorable (like every other woman in the world), but I didn’t like holding them and if I interacted with them, I preferred it to be from a safe distance. They always cried when I got near them, and nothing scared me more than a crying infant. But then there was you and you were mine and it all went away. I learned how to change a diaper. I learned that bouncing you when you cried would calm you down. I learned that if a baby cries when you hold it, it doesn’t mean that the baby hates you or that you somehow harmed it. Even though I read a million books and Googled a million things about how to be a mother, you were the one who actually taught me. You teach me that every time I see you.
The biggest thing I think I’ve learned from having you as my son is that I should take joy in the little things in life. When you were figuring out how to turn on the lawn mower lights, you had to watch Pop-pop 3 do it a couple of times – the first time you did it by yourself, you looked up at me and gave me the biggest smile! And I found myself absolutely thrilled. I was smiling and laughing and just utterly excited…about turning on the lawn mower’s headlights. It sounds silly, but those are the things that you find happiness in.
Everything is new to you – it’s why you do things over and over again, because it’s so exciting to have figured this “new thing” out. So unlike most 20-year olds, I get excited about lawn mower headlights, and turning keys in locks, and walking up and down the stairs. To you, everything is something worth discovering, and that is a kind of magic that can be lost on adults. We forget how fun and exciting the world can be because we assume that given our age and experience, we’ve figured it all out. Seeing the world through your eyes…it’s refreshing and beautiful, in a way. And though it’s humbling, you’ve taught me that maybe I don’t know it all.
As soon as The B’s and I figure out our next rendezvous date, I’ll start counting down my days again. But until then, I’ll just think of you when I use keys or stairs or bathroom sinks. And, most likely, all of the minutes in between.