An old friend of mine, whom I've since lost touch with, once told me that every time his kids entered a new phase, it felt like the previous child vanished. While it was exciting to watch his children change and enter new phases of their lives, it was also bittersweet because he knew they would never be who they were before.
At the time, Ethan was just a baby and I was likely talking about some new phase he had entered. I imagine I expressed happiness that certain parts of the previous phase were over but sadness over losing other parts. Take, for instance, walking. At 10 months, Ethan gave up crawling for good and began his journey of moving at warp speed. It was so exciting and so fun to watch him toddle around with both arms held up to ensure he was balanced. But he never crawled again. That crawling, little baby was gone, replaced by a full-on walker that was scared of nothing.
And when he began talking, well, those cute little coos and indecipherable vocal expressions were replaced with real words. And while it was exciting to actually be able to understand him, the cuteness that came with his animated, garbled expressions took on a new life. Those moments when he was clearly telling me something and was very adamant about whatever that string of nonsense was became something different. I missed his garbled nonsense even though I cherished every new word.
Even recently, Ethan has grown in his depiction of characters on paper. He has foregone the humans with hearts and aortas and replaced them with humans that have eyebrows and hands and feet and fingers and toes and hair and.....stink lines! I miss the round stomachs and round heads with lines for hands and feet accented by his depiction of a heart with an aorta and one red line and one blue line, indicating veins and arteries. When I ask him where the heart is, he says, I didn't want to draw that this time. Maybe next time. But alas, the next picture has no heart. I miss those drawings, yet I'm also thrilled to see more characteristics take shape on the page.
Each new phase is an indication that my children are growing up. And just like the above picture, there will be a day when they need me less and less, yet I feel I will likely need them more and more.
It's so easy to say we should live in the moment. In the present. We shouldn't miss the phases past or look for the phases of the future. We should enjoy the moments we have now and the phases we're in at the moment. I get it. Good advice. But that doesn't stop me from thinking about Ethan's past phases. Nor does it stop me from thinking ahead. And the same for Dylan.
Dylan, my very sweet little baby is growing up so quickly. Just last night, he took his first step. He stands on his own more often and for longer stretches. I see the writing on the wall. He'll walk soon and that tiny, little crawler I am so amused by now will transform into a new phase of his life. And all I can do is hang on tight and enjoy the new phase because I know it won't last. I know what comes next. I know that the passing of each stage, while bittersweet, is also a time to create new memories that I will undoubtedly look upon fondly.
I know that as a mother I will experience several tiny heartbreaks as my boys become independent, self reliant individuals. There need for me, while it will always be there, will not be as deep as my need for them. While they will, I hope, always love me, my love for them will always exceed theirs. Because that's the way it's supposed to be. Children are supposed to grow up and fill their lives with others to love, only to understand a parent's love upon having their own.
I just hope they continue to let me ride on their coattails as they navigate their own lives someday and that they will listen with amused interest when I drudge up memories of old. See? There I go, looking at the past and the future. *Sigh*