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Growing Up Behind My Back

As Madeleine hurtles headlong towards adulthood – she’ll be six ½ months on Christmas day! – I have to admire her don’t-look-back attitude about maturing and growing up, even as I deplore the fact of it.  Probably because I spend so many minutes of the day with her, she seems to be the of same size, possessing the same bag of trips developmentally, for several days, maybe even a week, until one morning I walk into her room and she’s noticeably heavier as I pick her up out of her crib.  Or she plows along through life and laundry until suddenly the overalls she was wearing last week don’t quite snap around her crotch.  I watch her cooing and rolling around on her playmat for weeks – hello, Giraffe!  Hiya, Lion! – until one day I look and she’s pulled herself up to sitting in order to get more of Giraffe in her mouth.  When do these things happen?  Anybody have any suggestions to keep them from happening?

There are rare instances in her life when I see her do something and I know with absolute certainty that it’s the first time she’s ever done it; I am witnessing her history in the making.  A few days ago, I was reading her a board book (still going strong with Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy!) while she snuggled by my side.  (On a side note, I can’t believe that it’s my actual job to hang out on the couch with my daughter, reading books and watching the bare trees blow outside our window.)  Maddie was feeling the pages as she is wont to do, when she went from exploring the pages to turning them.  She was deliberately reaching out with her right hand for a page, studying it as she passed it to her other hand, and lowering the page with the left hand, turning her head to the new page.  My daughter was turning the pages.

I thought it was a fluke, so I told Brian about it and she repeated the scene for him.  Now, I’m not saying she’s reading along or anything, but somewhere in the recent past her right hand learned to co-operate with her left, and she’s learned that this is what those stiff board pages do –move from side to side.

As another example, she drops something over the edge of her big swing (which, incidentally, she's suddenly grown into) and instead of immediately forgetting about it, she peers over the side looking for it.  Then searches over the other side.  Where’d she learn that??
These new milestones seem to be coming on a daily basis – solid food consumption is building at an alarming rate, and she ate a new food today, mango, consuming almost the whole jar.  I remember when it took four meals to finish a jar! – and while I love seeing the discovery and excitement she feels as she becomes more independent and self-aware, a part of me wants to freeze time.  Every day, I think, “Now!  Time can freeze now because she’s the perfect age to hang out with!”  And then, of course, it just gets better, even as I mourn the passing of the previous age.  Some of these steps towards more autonomy I’m actually forewarned about: at Maddie’s six-month visit her pediatrician laid out where Madeleine should be food-wise by her nine-month visit, and it looks backwards from where she is now.  Instead of nursing first, then eating a solid food, she should be eating a variety of foods three times a day with the nursing tacked on at the end.  Rather than the meal, the necessary meat and potatoes, I become the optional dessert, the if-you’ve-still-got-room-for-more item on the menu.  I hate the thought of it, but it’s already happening as her nursing times shorten and her solid food meals grow in bulk.

I remember how guilty I felt as a new mother, wanting her to hurry up and age already.  I would say to myself, “If I can just get through the first two weeks,” or, “When she hits six weeks it’ll be easier,” or, “Hurry up and hit three months already!”  Those first few weeks are so incredibly hard and I wanted her to mature just to make my life easier, to make her a bit more low-maintenance.  But the whole time I was wishing and crossing dates off a hypothetical calendar, I knew I’d regret the quick passage of time.  I wanted to savor every minute of her newborn-ness since I’d never get it back, but I didn’t have the physical energy to do so and I felt guilty that I was relieved she was growing up.  I enjoyed her, but I kept asking time to speed up.  Does that make sense?

And now, as I knew I would, I’m wishing time would slow down, even as I watch my daughter crow with delight while she balances sitting on our bed or scream with anticipation as Brian stalks her tender belly as the Tickle Monster.  I love watching her grow up.
But couldn’t she come with a pause button?


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