GREG BRUCE is torn be­tween joy and melan­choly as he watches his last child achieve baby mile­stones that mark a turn­ing point in his own jour­ney as a par­ent

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS -

Colum­nist Greg Bruce on the end of a par­ent­ing era as baby num­ber three hits his mile­stones

CASPER, MY THIRD and fi­nal child, is now five months old, and that’s five months I will never see again. Ev­ery time he now does some­thing for the first time, that is the last time any child of mine will ever do that par­tic­u­lar thing for the first time. Ev­ery be­gin­ning is now an end­ing. To be com­pletely hon­est, be­cause I have two other chil­dren un­der four, I’ve seen very lit­tle of his first five months any­way. Most of my home time is spent danc­ing with my daugh­ters to the Moana sound­track, or play­ing in­ter­minable chas­ing games around our liv­ing room and kitchen, or be­ing yelled at. Oc­ca­sion­ally, as I race past him at high speed, I’ll see Casper ly­ing placidly there on the floor and I’ll say hello, and he’ll smile at me, but it’s a rare and happy day when we do much more to­gether than that. He’s such a good baby, with “good” used here in the stan­dard way, to in­di­cate a baby who doesn’t de­mand much from his par­ents. In the lit­tle bit of time I do spend with him, the charm he turns on is so pow­er­ful that I’m wracked by guilt I don’t do this more of­ten. He’s so full of smiles, so en­gag­ing with his eye con­tact, I wish I could find the time to get sick of it. He is work­ing hard on rolling over. It will hap­pen any day now. It may have hap­pened to­day, while I was at work. If it has, I will never again see one of my chil­dren roll over for the first time. Soon, the fi­nal mile­stones will start to pile up in their fa­mil­iar rhythms – crawl­ing, walk­ing, run­ning, talk­ing, or­der­ing us around – and each one will carry with it that vague sad­ness of an end­ing. This is ob­vi­ously all in­cred­i­bly neg­a­tive think­ing. It’s not even four years ago we were cel­e­brat­ing all this kind of stuff as brand new, and we’ve still got decades more of firsts to come be­cause one good def­i­ni­tion of par­ent­hood is, “an end­less stream of firsts.” I know I should be cel­e­brat­ing each mo­ment, rather than look­ing back with sad­ness at the things I’ll never see again. Ac­tu­ally, sad­ness is not re­ally the right word for this feel­ing. It’s more like bit­ter-sweet­ness, like joy mixed with melan­choly. Now I think about it, that’s an­other quite good def­i­ni­tion of par­ent­hood. Our two el­der chil­dren now have enough com­mand of lan­guage that they are able to con­verse and – more of­ten – ar­gue with each other. It’s up­lift­ing to see their progress, to watch them in­ter­act and to know that we have cre­ated real peo­ple. I would not want them to be ba­bies again, not be­cause it was an aw­ful time, but just be­cause life moves on and there are new things to ex­pe­ri­ence. Where once we had a col­lec­tion of tiny balls of de­pen­dence, now we have a fam­ily of semi-in­de­pen­dent be­ings. When Casper fi­nally rolls over, crawls, takes his first steps, and so on, not only is there a good chance we will not be film­ing it, as we prob­a­bly did with Tal­lu­lah, but it’s likely we won’t even know it’s hap­pened un­til some vis­i­tor to our house tells us about it, prob­a­bly while we’re try­ing to deal with some fresh new nu­clear melt­down in our girls’ re­la­tion­ship. It’s easy to place too much em­pha­sis on a baby’s mile­stones, and to lose sight of the big­ger pic­ture of a fam­ily that’s chang­ing in tiny and fre­quently in­vis­i­ble ways with ev­ery pass­ing day. Too soon, lit­tle Casper will not be a baby any­more, and then we will have no more ba­bies. Our baby-rais­ing years will be over. We will look back on all the mem­o­ries, photos and videos fondly, and we will tell new par­ents to cher­ish it while it lasts be­cause it goes so fast, and they will smile and nod while in­wardly rolling their eyes and wish­ing they were get­ting even just a frac­tion of the sleep we are. Then we will wait, in­creas­ingly im­pa­tiently, count­ing down the years un­til we have grand­chil­dren, when it will start all over again.

It’s easy to place too much em­pha­sis on a baby’s mile­stones, and to lose sight of the big­ger pic­ture of a fam­ily that’s chang­ing in tiny and fre­quently in­vis­i­ble ways

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