As I adoringly gazed at my few months old baby girl, my first-born, with sleep deprived eyes, I didn’t feel the transience of time. For a first time mother, the infancy of her baby is such a miraculous time. Every facial gesture of the baby, every grimace, every twinge is a thing of wonder. The reality that she will eventually grow up never crossed my mind. My love for her and my adoration at her tiny perfectness were overwhelming. As I placed my cheek on her impossibly soft, warm cheek when I walked up and down the room while she slept with her head on my shoulder at 2 am, I was filled with a glorious, wondrous feeling of love and a fierce protectiveness that was very new to me indeed. I never thought my baby would be four years old, ever. She would stay little with all her baby fragrance, baby smiles and baby sweetness. But that didn’t happen, of course. She turned four soon enough, and then five, and then….She was joined by a little brother when she was five and I felt that overpowering sense of love and protectiveness as I held his little body close to my chest, second time around.
As a young mother, I exclaimed at every ‘first’ of my babies. The first feel of the rough edge of an emerging pearly white. My infant has a tooth!!! The much awaited rolling over, the crawl, the first step, the first word! Every ‘new’ was an occasion to celebrate, to inform the grandparents, uncles and aunts. Yet, while celebrating and rejoicing the new milestone, a tiny part of me mourned the loss of that time before. I won’t deny that slight little feeling for a split second, ‘Oh, s/he is growing up!’ But I was always mindful not to harp on that feeling because life is, of course, a forward progression in new paths and onto new discoveries.
The first day of kindergarten, every first day in a new grade since. The first time the elder one stayed alone, the first time she offered to make dinner, first day in middle school and then high school, first of many of our book discussions and theological discourses, first time I realized she was thinking independently, making her case, forming opinions. The first time she lied, argued, talked back.
The first time I left the little one at school and made the mistake of turning back. His tear-stained face and one little arm extended towards me, pains me still. The first time HE stayed alone, I drove back into the driveway and saw an anxious little face peering out of the window. The first time I dropped him off at his swim practice and drove away. I saw him sling his swim back on his shoulder and make his way inside to swim, alone. First time he made his own lunch, jumped into the pool without floaters.
There were moments of relief and pride at each milestone and that tiny little twinge way back in the innermost corner of my heart.
They are both growing up, loosening their grip. And there is that ‘push me pull you’ feeling inside me. I mentioned earlier, there is that very tiny pang of ‘oh, my babies!’ In my day-to-day life, I don’t think about this enough, but when Ryan casually holds my hand on a walk and his knobbly knuckles seem to fill my hand, I ask myself, ”When did this happen?’ I remember just a little time ago, that hand in mine was tiny, soft, malleable – resting there comfortably, ready to be guided. This hand today, which grips mine confidently, still needs direction, sure, but his grip has an assurance. It almost says, ‘I can hold you up, mom, if you stumble. I am almost there!’ When Sahana wears my saree, puts my make up on and smiles at me, I gasp ‘She is a woman!’ I have a Rip Van Winkle moment. Did I sleep through time? Or is this the way human life works? The changes are imperceptible yet right in my face. I am simply unaware. One day, I look mindfully and wham, it hits me! Time’s a flying!
Yet, I find their babyhood in the goodnight kisses and the early morning cuddles, in their sleeping faces and innocent questions. My babies are still hidden there somewhere inside. I seek them out when I put time aside to do it. Then we sit a while, laugh together and cuddle and I enjoy this bittersweet flavor that life offers.