When my son was 2 days old, I watched as he scrunched his eyebrows and opened his mouth wide, yawning and moving his face in a circle. This is my favorite face, I told my husband. We named the expression The Turtle. I loved that face.
Pretty soon Jackson’s eyes stayed open for longer parts of the day, but he would fall asleep in our arms when we sat on the couch or often anytime we held him. He cried loud, staccato cries and cooed the gentlest sounds as he took in our faces. Even in the exhaustion of new motherhood, my heart loved those noises.
And yet, we found ourselves giving in to thoughts of the future.
Won’t it be fun when he smiles?
I can’t wait until he laughs.
I wonder how soon he’ll crawl.
And as he would hit those milestones, our minds would push forward to the next.
Ma Ma Ma Ma, I would say over and over as he looked at me and smiled, and then yelled something that sounded like “DaDa!” When he recently started to stand on his own, we quickly asked when do you think he’ll walk?
It must be normal to think of what’s coming. It’s exciting and fun, and I feel pride every time Jackson does something new. But as we get further along in parenthood, I’ve started to notice how all this looking for his first time doing something often makes me miss all the lasts.
Jackson doesn’t make that turtle face anymore. His face has changed its shape and his noises sound nothing like they did when he was just weeks old. He rarely falls asleep in our arms these days and much prefers to be playing by himself on the carpet. His wriggling around on his tummy has now been replaced with full-fledged, four limbed crawling. He is standing and moving his way around coffee tables, falling fewer times every day.
And all of these new changes are wonderful.
But, at the same time, each one of them reminds me that what he is doing now might look a little different tomorrow.
This realization makes me both excited and sad; I’m already nostalgic for the days he was a little bit tinier and a little bit younger, but I’m also his biggest fan when he conquers something new. It’s the perfect mix of emotion to remind me of the importance of embracing life as it is in this moment.
So for now, I’ll savor every time he pulls himself up my legs and wants to be held. Every time he buckles over laughing when I dramatically rhyme words and call him a silly billy. I’ll lean in to each moment he tries to crawl away faster and faster in a game of chase. I’ll try to stay calm and present when he screams for something he wants even when I wish he could just tell me, because I know those days are coming.
Right now, his silly, wild, funny, lovely baby self is in front of me, and I want to be able to look back at these days and remember the moments as ones we really lived, not ones we were pushing through waiting to see what was coming next.
I know I won’t be able to do this all the time. Motherhood is challenging, and some days getting by is the best I’ve got. But when I can, I want to remember to look at Jackson’s sweet, toothy, smiling face and breathe into the present moment. Because I am so grateful to be living every moment with him, and I don’t want to take any of them for granted.