New Mom or Old Pro?

May 22, 2006

My 16-month-old daughter spent the weekend clomping around in her very first pair of Nikes.

Miss Independent insists on feeding herself, damn the messy consequences. And heaven forbid you try to help her out when she boxes her toy stroller into a corner and gets stuck; you’ll be met by an indignant grunt that screams, “I can do this myself!”

At the daycare center she attends two days per week, my sweet baby girl will be transitioned from the Infant Room to the Toddler Program any day now.

In short, my bebita is growing up.

It’s joyous and painful to watch, all at once. No one prepared me for the sorrow that has punched me in the gut each step of the way. I remember packing away her newborn clothes when they no longer fit, and sobbing with each fold of a tiny sleeve. Even my wonderful husband looked at me like I was slightly nuts, and I admit it was a little tough to explain my grief.

It’s just that infancy is so fleeting; they are only tiny, helpless, bewildered creatures for a fleeting moment, it seems. Before you know it, they have clear personalities and distinct demands, and need mommy less and less.

So my delightful, headstrong, independent girl is clearly not a baby any more. Then why do I still feel like a new mother?

In most ways, I’m an old hand at this mothering stuff. I know her likes, her dislikes, how to soothe her if she’s hurt or scared or cranky. I know how to make her laugh, what her favorite books are, and we have her running on schedule akin to the trains in Europe.

But last night, I gazed at her face while she drifted off to sleep in my arms, and it all still seemed so new. Maybe it’s because she is changing and growing so much each day, amazing us with a new word or trick or quirk.

Or maybe it’s because watching your child’s face light up when she sees you at the end of the day could never possibly get old.

How about you, fellow moms? Was there a moment when it all clicked and you felt like an experienced mom, or is the thrilling newness here to stay for a while?