Our son, Jack, turned one August 11. It often feels like he was born yesterday, while other times it feels like he has always been here. Reflecting over the past year, I can’t help but consider the small details in our parenting. Are we laying the foundation we planned?
From the moment he came home from the hospital, life took over. There were feeding and sleep schedules to master. (Master may be too strong of a word.) Jack was only a few weeks old when I thought I was going to lose my mind. My Aunt, Patti, candidly told me to remember that sleep deprivation is the way they brain wash people. I laughed, but soon realized, there is serious truth to that statement. The first 4 months I repeated that statement as my new mantra. It helped me to remember I was not crazy, just sleep-deprived.
Maternity leave quickly flew by and it was time to master a new schedule: one that included work, daycare, and meal preparation. If we were giving out grades, I flunked this transition. I anticipated this being a difficult change, but I was wrong. Difficult was not nearly a strong enough word. Much of my maternity leave was spent attempting to prepare for the return to work. I bought fun decorative labels that are dishwasher and laundry safe. I stored up milk. I labeled EVERY. THING.
So what happened? Why was the transition so hard? I don’t really know. I imagine it was a cocktail including sleep deprivation, long commutes, new tasks, and a strong desire to be with my baby. However, I know cleaning and packing was one of the most challenging new tasks on my list. I spent 2 hours each evening cleaning and re-packing his diaper bag for the next day. Packing the diaper bag often brought me to tears; not for the “noble” reasons moms cry when taking their babies to daycare, but because I was tired and it was a LOT of work. Then there was the notorious immune system building transition. You know the one. Where your new baby is sick every 4 days with a new virus and you can’t do anything to help. The day I broke was the day the daycare asked me to change my labels to no longer have my child’s last name on them. They wanted to be “HIPAA compliant”. First, I explained HIPAA compliance to them. Second, I went home and said I can’t do it. I. CAN. NOT. RE-LABEL. EVERYTHING. AGAIN.
I once heard a statistic that 70% of a person’s personality is formed by the time they are 3-years-old. Therefore, you can understand why I think critically about my parenting style at this stage. I have also heard that the brain does not develop the ability to retain long-term memory until about 4-years-old. Maya Angelou says it best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I have adopted this as part of my parental philosophy. I want my child to grow to have a foundation built in trust, love, and calmness. I want to build a character full of courage and altruism.
It became time for me to take a new direction. I transitioned home and into new work opportunities. Life seemed to slow down and I began to watch him inquisitively. I began trying to learn about his personality. What made him tick?
I enjoyed the slower pace. I enjoyed the mornings holding him while he finished a bottle, reading books, going swimming, playing with friends. I have thought a thousand times, “this is what it is all about”. I have cherished the time we have had to delight in our son; to enjoy the process; to be right here, right now.
As life would have it, the pace is picking up again with needed deadlines for important projects. I realize that these things are also important. It is important for our son to see he is not the center of the universe. It is important for him to see his parents work. It is fulfilling to me to continue with my career and to fulfill multiple avenues that I was created to accomplish.
Regardless of the pace of our current season of life, I am constantly pondering the foundation we are laying. When Jack was a few months old I was venting my concerns about feeding to a close girlfriend. She has a son that is one year older than mine. She laughed and stated “Soon this will be a distant memory for you and you will be on to worrying about something new.” Wow, thanks for the encouragement! But she was right. I cannot remember the last time I wondered if my son was eating enough food. Seriously, he is a little chunky monkey! Now I wonder how to help ease his separation anxiety and how do I best handle his problem with the concept of “no.”
I believe the legacy I am trying to leave is built in these day-to-day moments. He is not going to remember details of his circumstances, but his character will be built by the foundation we are building now.
Just this morning, while I am working and he is entertaining himself, I can’t help but to pause and enjoy the littles. The little moments that I hope are engrained in my memory and his heart forever. The simple things like how adorable he is stacking the dog bowls or peering his little face through the stair railing, the feeling of peace in our home, the enjoyment and simplicity of childhood.
I stop and help him up the stairs one more time. He happily applauds our success and I whisper a prayer in my heart…
I pray that I leave a legacy that instills confidence, love, and strength in my son’s heart. I pray that he is given the gift of a strong loving foundation and will in turn give back a similar legacy to the world.