As my youngest son approaches his first birthday I'm hit with it: nostalgia. That ache in my gut about time passing, slipping through the neck of the hourglass.
Yesterday, I was tickling my son on the changing table and he was less than amused. It felt like it had been only days before that when I tickled his spine he burst into this deep-throated wild giggle, eyes wide, arms bouncing in delight. Now, he lay there, staring at me with solemn blue eyes.
When you're pregnant, that line between you and your child is fuzzy. You go from sharing your body, to nourishing them with your body, to them being independent from your body, to them eventually being fully independent and moving out of your house. Those boundaries between you and your children continue to shift and change over time.
Sometimes I think nostalgia is all about that slow separation. It can be bittersweet and full of memories, full of the difference between then and now.
I find that I'm already longing for a time that's past--for that baby who likes to lay on his belly because he can't crawl yet and flips his hands up and down like flippers. When I tell my husband about how I'm feeling about our youngest approaching his first birthday, he commiserates and says, "The problem with good memories is that they're memories."
The other problem with memories is how selective they can be. It can be easy to label an experience "good" or "bad" and remember only what fits with your judgment of that experience. That time you spilled coffee on yourself during a presentation was "bad" even though you actually did a great job on the presentation. That time you had a picnic with your family was "good" even though in reality you felt crabby that your oldest got into poison ivy.
When you label the past only in terms of good and bad, nostalgia can become a practice of looking at the past through rose colored glasses. And one of the problems with this is it can get you stuck in the past and make you forget that some things are worth growing out of. While I'll miss the way my youngest's cheeks are so heavy and round they hang below his chin like a bullfrog's, I won't miss the constant spit up or the hour long screeching that always begins around 5pm, when I'm already tired from a long day.
And already the changes that are occurring are positive in some ways. I recently weaned my youngest, which has given my husband a chance to feed our son more. This has given them a new closeness. Maybe moving those rose colored glasses toward the present can give me a chance to enjoy the present more. Maybe nostalgia can teach me to remember what's good not just in the past, but right now.
Now my son likes to stand with support and say "mama" and "dada." His voice changes when he says mama based on what he wants. Sometimes he says it with a crying tone when he needs something. Other times he says my name not as a way to call out to me but like a word that is a pleasure to say, to hear a specific sound he has made. He repeats it over and over, joyous, delighted that he can make sounds.
When he looks at me, his face is beaming. He's showing off a little bit and I can't help but be proud of this new little toddler in my house.