February 21, 2013

Inheritance and the future

Once I knew I wanted to have a family with Chris, I began daydreaming about it... what it would be like, how our hypothetical children would look, who they would take after, etc. And when I was pregnant and this family was becoming a reality, we spoke and joked frequently about the various qualities that we hoped the little one would inherit. I said I wanted her to have my thick wavy hair and Chris's long legs. I hoped she would have Chris's work ethic and sense of optimism alongside my capacity for empathy.

Now that she is here and beginning to show more personality with every day, it is so amazing. I feel like she's a little chameleon with a face that shifts in resemblance among the faces of people I love most. I see Chris's and my mother-in-law's eyes. I see my mom's and my sister's mouths. I see my hands, my face shape, and my long nail beds.

I love seeing Emilia change and grow but it happens so rapidly. Sometimes it feels like it is happening too rapidly. For me, early motherhood has entailed this mixed bag of constant anticipation coupled with a nagging desire to slow down time. I want to savor every moment of her littleness and breathe her in each day. But I also want her to thrive. It's complicated I guess.

I asked my dad about this the other day because I was feeling especially protective of right now. I asked him if it is hard to watch your little ones grow and grow... to a point where you can no longer sweep them up and cuddle and snuggle them? The thought that she won't always fit in my arms... The idea that our physical closeness won't last forever... I anticipate the longing I will someday feel in missing those things. I imagine the longing my parents (and especially my mom) must feel for the close intimate moments with their babies. Just like one of Emilia's books articulates, you almost want to "keep them little." I knew I couldn't talk to my mom about this without sobbing like the sap that I am so I steeled myself as much as possible and said to my dad, "Is it hard to watch your children grow? In a way, don't you just want them (i.e. us) to be little forever?"

At first he joked that by the time they grow up, you as their parent badly need a break. He's right because so many aspects of this time are exhausting, no doubt. But then he paused for a moment and said reassuringly that as parents you grow with your children and whatever it is that they do in that moment becomes the best, most exciting, and sweet thing. That makes sense to me too. It has been my (albeit brief) parental experience that the stuff that I treasure absolutely corresponds with time as it elapses. But those new happy feelings don't diminish or supplant the joy felt for everything that has occurred thus far. It just makes the transitions of her growth less bitter and more sweet.

I may feel like I want to slow down time but no part of me would ever dream of holding Emilia back. I guess I am trying to say that I can and I cannot wait to see who she will be tomorrow and the next day and the next.

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