My wife and I stood in the kitchen weeping as we held each other.
We weren’t making up from a fight.
Everyone in our family was healthy.
The problem was that our little boy had nearly outgrown his side crib—a crib that I’d made for him over the summer with my own hands, cutting the wood, fitting it together, sanding it down, staining it, and attaching it to the side of our bed. Ethan had grown long and wild, and now he was kicking at the end and whacking his left arm into the side.
He needed to move into his big crib full time, and the thought of it tore at our hearts.
Everyone tells you that the time flies with kids. I sort of believed them, but it also drags during every sleepless night—every night he wiggled and struggled to sleep.
There were lots of things people didn’t mention about kids. Stuff like the 4-6 month sleep regression, taking vitamins every day to make up for lost sleep, or the way you eat every meal cold with one hand.
We know Ethan’s first day of school will be emotional. I’ve watched enough parents send their kids to college that I’m at least bracing myself for that transition.
No one mentioned the small changes, the way we let go of little things as a child grows. These are the little markers that remind us our little boy is growing up, much like marking lines on a door frame each year.
I never expected these small changes to hit me so hard.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have longed for the day Ethan would be able to hold his head up on his own. I’ve prayed that he’ll sleep through the night—even five hours straight would be a small miracle at this point. The sleep is still a work in progress, but it seemed that shortly after holding his head up, he outgrew his side crib.
Never mind that he’s a six-month-old wearing twelve-month-old clothing. The fact remains that I’m still crushed to think that I wanted him to grow faster.
Now I’m wondering how I can savor every moment while he’s still a little guy who babbles and wiggles on the floor each morning.
Each new month brings a new list of small things to change. I’m now looking at all of his toys and wondering when he’ll stop playing with each one. He’s already longer than his inch worm toy, but when will he stop finding the fabric fascinating? When will the octopus toy bore him?
Some friends with a small pack of children have assured us that each new year with kids is delightful. There’s always something to enjoy. That is something that comforts and warns me against becoming too preoccupied with saving the past or clinging to what I enjoy in the present.
With everything that Ethan outgrows, there’s a new discovery waiting. That discovering is one of great delights of life. And perhaps that spirit of discovery is something I need as a parent. Rather than thinking of myself as someone who longs to preserve the past, I need more hopeful anticipation for the future.
Rather than chalking up each change as a loss of something precious, I need to see my son’s growth as a new gift each day. You can’t hold onto each gift forever, but with a child, the new gifts never stop.