my baby turns two in less than a week. it’s funny how this birthday really feels like his day, instead of just a day where we dress him up and take a picture of him with a cake. this year we want to give him all of the things that he loves. i was thinking today about how many times i have heard people say that when you have kids you are no longer the center of your world, that you no longer only think about yourself, that your life now revolves around them instead of you. statements like these are usually followed by, “it’s a relief.” obviously you never really get what this means until you are a parent, but as i was thinking about my son’s birthday i realized that statements like these make sense to me in a new way.
the first two years of parenthood are so challenging, partially because you are in some way grieving your old life. the newborn phase (and the first year, really) can feel like your life as you knew it, is over. added to that is the fact that every relationship that you have is redefined, put into a different context, and changed. having a family is a lot like tearing down a house to it’s foundation, then re-building it from the foundation up. you see your partner, your parents, your friends, your bosses, your siblings, all in a different light. so much of your independence is taken from you, and you spend a lot of the first year trying to come to terms with that. there is also a sort of liminal feeling to having a new baby: you know that your life has changed, that you have changed, but you’re not quite sure who you will be as a parent, as a family, yet.
as children get older and start to become themselves, you begin to feel more and more enchanted with them as people outside of yourself. babies are like that foundation, they have the framework of you and your partner, you see parts of yourself and your partner, of each of your extended families in them, but as they grow more independent you start to see them become their own people. and as your child becomes more of themselves, you become more of yourself as a parent, as a part of your own family. as my son turns two i can now look back on who i was and understand how i have changed. i can appreciate how far i’ve come and understand the things that i left behind. there is enough distance between my old life and my life now that i can appreciate the contrast without feeling like i’ve lost something.
what is incredible about having a child is that he really is the thing that my life revolves around, but i think that the relief of it is that that is now joyful where maybe at first it was terrifying or frustrating or overwhelming. it’s a relief to no longer feel lost or that something has been lost and to be at the point where i’m just excited to be with him every day. my son is becoming his own little person, with a million quirks and likes and dislikes and wants and needs and i get to be there to see him becoming this person. as it becomes less and less about you, about your birth experience or what you gave up or how difficult it has been, all of that gets replaced by this sort of wisdom. the wisdom of knowing it was all about something, or leading to something so much greater than sleepless nights or endless crying or even a career. it’s a relief when it’s no longer about you and how your life has changed, and it’s just about helping them discover what makes them happy or excited. that rules. seriously.