Maybe it’s a little case of spring fever, but I find myself particularly excited for the new crop of babies coming into my life this season. Like the first snowdrops near the end of a long winter, I am oohing and aahing and overwhelmingly delighted to ogle tiny fingers and toes all curled up around that wonderful combination of feathery lightness and droopy heft that is otherwise known as infant in arms.
With an eldest child who is 16 (and often ornery, regularly whiny and otherwise deep-voiced and frighteningly nearly adult and quite charming and smart and funny and generally cool) maybe I am beginning to crash into the anticipatory stage of the emptying nest. Next year this time, we’ll start looking at colleges and have brochures streaming through the mail slot and cascading onto the front hallway floor. Already, I find myself trying to prepare for his departure. I want him doing laundry and scrubbing the egg pan all the way to clean. I want him to be thoughtful about others. I want him to pick up after himself and to do his homework without our having to check that he’s done it. I want to check that he’s done his homework and laundry and picked up after himself so that someday soon—very soon—he will see these things as his priorities, not me telling him to make these his priorities.
And my littlest one, the fourth, is so cute and so sassy and she’s so not a baby anymore. Although she snuggles, she isn’t the docile, nonspeaking infant of yore (fortunately). Instead, she’s filled with smarts and attitude: showing me my “friend” Rachel Maddow in a New Yorker ad, parroting the funny bits—as she perceives them—in a commercial for a Disney Channel show (“He’s a kid; no he’s a genius like Albert Frankenstein”), demonstrating a great preference for chocolate chips above pretty much anything else and shaking her bum on a regular basis for our amusement and growling when she is especially displeased. She swears like the younger sister of teenagers.
No surprise then that I find those tender, soft-skinned, gummy, sleepy creatures seemingly attached to their parents by osmosis as such a grounding entity in my life these days. I like every new baby on my Facebook feed; I rejoice in their arrivals (including three this past month from former babysitters); I cheer on their new mums. No part of me actually longs to return to that sleepless mammalian tunnel of time. Overall, I am ready for these next phases: the four year-old and her funniness, the nine year-old with his passion for skiing, the thirteen year-old busy thinking politics and cuisine and hooked on the series Parenthood (“Mom, under shows Netflix suggests I’ll like are all the series you like”) and even the teen trying to forge his independence (like toddlerhood but with a deep voice, formidable muscle, a high school transcript and a cell phone).
Before I had my babies, new babies were joyous. Simultaneously, though, I often felt the tug of longing for my future babies. When I was having the babies, sometimes others’ babies got tangled in wherever I was in the process of having mine: the too-busy parts, the competitive and insecure parts, the joy of sharing babies parts or the my kids won’t let me hold your kids parts or even more longing. Now that all that wishing and future thinking and longing and busy with babes in arms-ing is behind me, the babies feel different still.
Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a writer, whose work appears in the ebook anthology Welcome to My World, Brain Child Magazine & the Huffington Post, Babble & Bamboo Magazine amongst others. She does some blogging for Teen Life and keeps her own blog—Standing in the Shadows—at the Valley Advocate. She and her dear husband are raising four children and enduring a great deal of chaos in the relatively sleepless process.