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
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