Fine, I’m not EXACTLY totally finished. There are slots in my daughter’s baby book for photos that are sitting empty that need to be filled. I have to remember what she was given for her fifth birthday party, even though I could confidently guess “princess stuff” and “My Little Pony nonsense” and that would pretty much cover it.
But once I painstakingly print off those dozen or so photos (which should take 15 minutes; I’ll accidentally drag it out to 3 weeks), and use tiny chunks of washi tape (of which I have 45 rolls because evidently a part of my brain thinks that is a useful stockpile item) to affix them, that book is finished. I don’t have to record any new milestones anymore.
I don’t get to record any new milestones anymore.
Is there anything more terrifying to a parent than realizing you made a person that is 89% done?
All the good stuff you did as a parent up to this point = totally visible.
All the stuff you missed or bungled = in practice on 2 feet, beside you, loudly gasping and not whispering about the “MAN WITH ONE EYE MOM WHERE IS HIS OTHER EYE MOM DOES IT HURT IN THE HOLE WHERE HIS EYE ISN’T MOM?”
The heavy lifting while perpetually sleep-deprived and not really understanding what you’re doing, and feeling woefully under-qualified (one cannot put too fine a point on how absurd it is that two adults who had unprotected sex being expected to MAINTAIN ANOTHER HUMAN LIFE 10 months later) is mostly over. A lot of it feels like a fevered meth dream—there are so many fluids and confusion and tiny enemas and poops that forever ruin grainy mustard as a condiment and crying and rocking them back and forth. I lost most of the baby weight doing that continual bounce and sway of my upper torso for hours.
But a funny thing happens when you do something very hard all by yourself in the middle of the night. You realize how much you are capable of.
You become a parent when day after day you are not the most important person you know.
When you do something over and over, you may not get better at it, but you don’t think about how hard or weird it is anymore. Then they’re five and they are not with you 6 straight hours and you’re like “Please, don’t let her be a bully and please don’t let her be bullied and please let her respect her body and speak up if she’s uncomfortable and stand up for her friends and be kind, PLEASE, even though I don’t hold the elevator for neighbors, please let her be kind.”
Now that the official book is all carefully filled in, how do I remember her first betrayal, her first kiss, the first time she painstakingly drives me around a grocery store parking lot, the first time she has her heartbroken, the first time she whispers “don’t tell Dad,” the first time she asks me about drugs, or sex or her lack of boobs (I’M SO SORRY) or masturbation or…or…or…
I will have to chisel those towering and terrifying moments somewhere special in my brain.
A special cave, deep in my sticky cerebellum, that also remembers when parenting was minute-to-minute, everything throbbed, and my whole world, everything that mattered, was wrapped up in a striped hospital blanket.
This post originally appeared on Miss Teen USSR. It has been used with permission.
Brooke Takhar writes at Miss Teen USSR and runs so she can eat artisanal ice cream directly from the recyclable glass jar. Online you can read more of her stories at BLUNTMoms, Scary Mommy, Hahas for HooHas, Project Underblog and Coffee + Crumbs. In print she has short stories featured in That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light, Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee: The Crazy, Brilliant, and Unforgettable Lessons We’ve Learned from Our Mothers and Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?! Currently she’s drinking black coffee, sleeping, or farting around on Facebook or Twitter.