Someone once said to me that their son was “Not Arron*, but the baby that will become Arron”. At the time it sounded deep. After all we spend so little time in our babyhood and childhood compared to the rest of our lives, and as adults we look at that part of our life as an encapsulated past.
It now sounds incredibly superficial and shallow.
You are not yet five months old. You do not yet eat food other than my milk. You do not sit up, you do not crawl. You blow bubbles and open your mouth in a baby-bird like grin of squeaky delight that betrays your toothless gummy baby nature. You coo. You cry. You grab. You poop. You laugh when your own fart startles you, and you become annoyed with your hiccups if you’re trying to nurse. You bite down when you’re nursing and want me to look at you.
This is not who you will be at 5. This is not who you will be at 18. This is not who you will be at 30, at 60, at 95. This is not how you entered the world as a newborn, nor is it how you were in the womb.
You will not remember being this small.
In theory now is the time to have your ears pierced, to train you to sleep with tears, to teach you independence by ignoring you in the hopes of bypassing that inevitable time when you’re about 9 months old and discover the idea of separation anxiety. (Which is completely unavoidable, age appropriate, and part of your brain’s development. Not something that I can cause now by holding you or not holding you or changing your name to “The Independent Baby of Independence” or other such things.)
You see. You’re the “baby” not the “person”. You won’t remember it, so what’s the harm? It’s part of shaping you to be who you are in the future because who you are now doesn’t matter.. Somehow.
You’re sitting next to me as I write this. Kicking your feet against my leg and flailing your arms around in intense concentration as you try to figure out how to kick harder and/or get your feet into your mouth. I’m watching you through the corner of my eye as I type and when you look up at me I look over at you and I smile and compliment you on the kicking. You flash me a gummy grin and go back to your task.
The idea that you are not yet a person.. Not yet someone who has your own thoughts, feelings, motivations, desires, memories.. The idea that today will be completely forgotten and have little impact on tomorrow (other than the stuff I successfully train into a habit.).. No. Just no.
You are a person. A fourteen pound and some-ounce person. Fully formed. Fully functional. One hundred percent of all that you are supposed to be right now.
When tomorrow comes you might not remember that I spent today making faces at you and carrying you around and showing you the bright red tomatoes as I picked them with you on my hip. You might not remember that I had the taxi driver pull off to the side of the road so that I could change your diaper when you fussed instead of making you sit wet for fifteen minutes until we got home.
I’m not parenting you for your memories. I’m not parenting you for my own memories. I’m parenting you for the feeling of calm across the day. The feeling of having your needs met. The feeling of trusting and being taken care of, and being listened to and spoken to. The things that carry over day to day, night to night and week to week and that build this solid ball of calm and trust and faith in your caregivers each day as you get older.
I don’t know what your first true memory will be. But I know that you-as-a-person extend back to before your memories could start to form. I want you to grow up knowing that you are yourself at every moment of your life. Not something that has yet to be, or something that once was.
You are a person for every single day that you are alive.
And you deserve to be treated as one.