I remember when my baby didn’t even know he had hands. We would put his tiny fingers in scratch mitts to save his face. The mitts were so small they were like finger puppets.
Now Charlie’s nearly two years old and I am facing a reality that my baby is not a baby anymore. It was bound to happen.
I haven’t known him for very long but I almost can’t remember when he was wearing the finger puppets. The details are fading and being replaced by an insanely busy life where I constantly feel I don’t give him enough time.
When Charlie was a baby all I had was time with him. The first moment we first locked eyes felt like an eternity. It was so quiet and I hadn’t prepared anything to say. We just stared at each other.
“Hi, I am your Mum,” I finally said, with tears streaming down my face.
My little baby at a few weeks old. (Post continues below).
That’s how it began. I had crossed a gulf to motherhood, unlocking an ocean of space in my heart that I didn’t know was there. At the same time my son was seeing a new world too.
For the first year we spent nearly every moment together. Call it healthy or not, I have never had such an intense relationship.
Time played tricks on me. The hours of crying and rocking and restless feeding were when time slowed down and then it sped up when he giggled through Chinese rhyme time. Then time sped up again when he slept. I would make a cup of tea and put a few dishes away and then my day was over and my partner would come and ask: “What did you two do today?”
I’d think, nothing. But it wasn’t nothing. The days were full. They were jammed packed with a kind of nothingness that filled my heart up – almost to bursting point.
Charlie in the early days. Image supplied.
All the giggling, burping, nappy changes, prepping to leave the house, rhyme times, swimming lessons, new mum play dates, washing, cooking and sleep deprivation could seem like nothing. The daily tasks were so mundane. But it all really mattered. That tiny gorgeous baby needed me and there I was, with an unwavering dedication.
I'd never felt more loving, more needed, more scared of losing what I had, more tired and more present. Then, I needed time for myself. I needed to come up for air, I needed sleep, I needed to just be alone. I tried to bridge my old career-driven self with my new always-available-to-mother self and went back to work.
The first week I left him at childcare almost broke me. I had bad separation anxiety. Charlie would scream at the drop offs and it just felt like torture. I called my mother in tears.
"His face has changed," I said. "I wasn't there to see it, but I am sure his face has changed."
My mother thought I was hilarious.
"He looks different." I sobbed.
I tried to explain that it was like when I moved overseas and I came back eight years later and everyone looked so different. But I had been gone eight hours - not eight years.
I can't even think very far ahead now. It's too much pressure. My father always uses the quote: "Show me the seven-year-old, I'll show you the man."
These years are so important and they are flying by. I have so many hopes for Charlie. I hope he's happy, he's confident, he's safe and well. I hope I will have done my best as a mother.
Right now, he can walk and talk, pick his clothes and make requests:
"How I wonder what you ARE," he shouts and points. I promptly pass him the rhyme book.
"Go away Mummy, bye bye," he says with a wave.
As his two-year-birthday comes hurtling toward me I want time to slow right down. I'm not in any hurry. I know he's not a baby anymore but he will always, always be my baby.