At any age, offspring will be referred to as kids (at least here in America). My grandmother is 70-something years old and still refers to all of her 50-year-old children as her “kids.” Now they have kids of their own and are grown, having fulfilled much of their own potential, but at one point they were all just that: kids. Before that, even, each of them was a baby. A mother “knows” her babies before they’re even born, but not in the way that it is required to “know” a person. A baby is a fleeting thing, a phase in a long string of phases that make up the culmination of a person’s life.
People are forever saying “we’re having a baby,” but a more truthful statement would be, “we’re having a person!” When we had our first child almost 9 years ago, my perception of it was that we were having a baby, and that it would be a baby forever. I would never have said that directly, but there was a part of me that did not understand the endeavor I was undertaking. It really sunk in and hit home hard about a year or so ago when my little toddlers became “kids” and started to inhabit a position more akin to a person in our family unit. Those two little babies that my wife and I bore years ago are now in elementary school, reading, talking on the phone regularly and starting their own youtube channel.
Six weeks ago we had our third child. The pregnancy was expected, but our desire to have another baby wasn’t. I thought we had decided to stop with those two, but apparently life has other ideas for us. When our biological clocks hit again, it surprised us both, but our little one has been perfect in every way so far, and we have been better parents as well. Part of the reason, I believe, is this: our perspective is better. We see that this new baby isn’t just a baby. It’s a person in the baby-phase of life.
I look at her and I can imagine what she might be in just a few short years. I can clearly understand how quickly she’ll grow and how important it is to cherish each moment because they’ll be gone so quickly and, despite the fact that some of them are tough to handle and test our patience, we’re going to miss every moment of it when it’s gone. I know this now only because I’ve gone through it already with her two older siblings.
When you have all of your children “at once,” or in a span of a couple years, and then watch them grow together, it all kind of happens as one big phase. Having a third child years later has made for an interesting experience that not all parents receive. It’s a juggling act, but I’m a more accomplished clown now than I was when I first joined the circus.
All of that being said, I urge all of you that are new parents to be wary of seeing your baby as merely a baby and to prepare for the quickness with which he/she will become a child, a person, a friend. It’s hard to fathom when you haven’t seen the long string of phases in a human’s life that I have (and I’m aware that I’m far from learning all that there is to learn), but if you don’t take the time to appreciate each moment, each development, each new “first” that comes in your child’s life, you may someday kick yourself with regret when you see that that child is an individual with a life of his/her own and you realize that you may have missed a lot of the experiences that were building that person because you were too busy seeing a baby and thinking it would be a baby forever. It sounds cliche, but it’s true: it goes by way too fast.