When babies come into the world as the squishy little bundles of joy they are, it can be hard to imagine looking at their scrunched up faces that peek out from layers of blankets, how much they will teach us about life. How something so small with no idea about the world, can actually teach us how it works.
Here are my 10 favourite things that my baby has taught me since coming into the world, 10 things that stick out of the hundreds of lessons of motherhood.
Crying is a human superpower.
Before babies can learn to talk, point or even gesture, they can cry. In fact, one of the first things they will do after taking their first breath, is to cry. Crying is their way of asking for help, and babies will do it freely and liberally. As we get older, we learn to hold it in, but take something off your baby and watch them cry openly, passionately and loudly, wherever they are. Often that’s in the middle of a shop. They are never embarrassed, they never conform their emotions to please the people that surround them, they feel strongly and deeply, right then and there. As an adult I’ve spent the latter part of my adult life learning to sit with discomfort. Trying to unlearn hiding things for the comfort of those around me. I’ve learned from watching my son cry unabashedly how important sadness, grief and disappointment are to a healthy and varied emotional state.
Grief is part of life from the very beginning.
In many of the situations above (which you will relate to especially well if you have a toddler) crying is an expression of disappointment. Disappointment about having a choice taken away, or being told to do something they don’t want to do. “No, you can’t feed your dinner to the dog.” “It’s time to leave the park now”. “Sorry, your balloon popped and I can’t fix it”. The reaction to this is disappointment, which distilled down, is a form of grief. Grief that stems from your day, your week (or your life) not going to plan the way you wanted it. It may not feel nice, but it is a natural part of the human experience.
There is abundant wonder in the everyday things.
As seasoned adults, and especially in the age of technology, it can be easy to seek excitement in things that can be bought. The newest, brightest, shiniest things. My child has re-awakened in me the excitement you feel about some particularly soft, green grass, of how fun swings are, of how creative you can be with just a piece of paper and some crayons.
Everyone is talented and everyone is average.
When my son was first born he was the most beautiful baby ever. He was the best baby. The most settled sleeper. These were all things that were simply as my eye beholded. He did show a natural talent for social interaction, and he crawled early, but he wasn’t the earliest walker or talker. That was just fact. My childish fantasy of him being the next baby genius, was dashed. However, it did make me realise that in life he will be the best at some things, and average at others, and that unique combination is what makes him, and everyone, so special.
There’s no point in trying to control everything.
‘Nothing throws your plans out the window quite like having a baby. Babies are walking, talking plan disruptors. You can not regulate babies, and even routines have limitations and exceptions. Sickness, moods, leaps, and teething, and one hundred other things, will wreak havoc on any control you have tightly grasped over you life. You just have to learn to lean into the chaos and go with the flow.
There’s a wild freedom that comes from going with the flow.
Once you realise how futile trying to control everything is, you can let go and freefall into the unknown. It’s scary and exhilatring and you’ll definitely wonder what the hell you’re doing, but you’ll have fun. Open your eyes and enjoy the view.
Don’t waste time wondering if you look silly.
Babies look and act like drunken adults a lot of the time, and they don’t spend a single second feeling self-conscious about it. They simply immerse themselves in the moment without consideration. It’s truly remarkable. Embrace life as if you’ve had a few champagnes and see the fun unfold.
There’s nothing more valuable you have than time.
For almost my whole pregnancy, I felt like I was counting down the days till I would be holding my baby in my arms. The closer the countdown got, the more excruciatingly slowly the time seemed to go. Once he was born, it felt like someone had pressed fast-forward on the clock, and I felt an uncomfortable awareness of how time was disappearing and it unlocked a sense of anxiety I had never experienced before. Suddenly, I understand exactly what those cliched phrases like “time equals money” were trying listlessly to convey. I realized as he grew up right in front of me, that everything else I valued before; money, things, work, are all renewable resources, and time is not. I stopped rushing through things the way I had before and I made choices to work less and spend time with him because I knew I would never get it again.
My body doesn’t define me.
When Bowie was first put on my chest and my eyes took in his features, I saw who he was. Then as the days and weeks went by, his features changed. He is physically growing and changing so much, he looks different every day that passes, and it makes me realise that his heart and soul and cheeky personality is what makes him, him. Having such clarity around that, meant that I’ve seen my own body that way too. In the last 2 years I’ve grown an entire human, and then spent another year recovering. I don’t recognize my body now, but that’s not important because my body doesn’t define me. I am happy, and healthy and I’m still me no matter what I look like on the outside.
It’s all worth it.
The other day I was laying on the grass looking at the sky and thinking about how different my life used to be. I used to have a such a deep sense of longing, I knew where I wanted to go in life, but it felt like I would never arrive there. Then little by little the pieces fell into place, and all the hard work I was doing gained traction until my life was complete. It was a lot of work, focus and sacrifice, but it was all beyond worth it. He’s taught me that everything that has passed, every challenge and set back, was all worth it to be here with him now.