I got my eyes checked last week. It's been two years since my last eye exam and I've been wearing my last pair of contact lenses for over a month (they last 30 days), so it was time. The optometrist was nice enough. She said two things that stood out. The first thing was that she said I needed a haircut because my bangs kept getting in her way- well, I just go my haircut last week (am I out of touch with the function of bangs?). The other thing she said is something I've heard from various moms over the last year or so. She asked if I had kids and I said, yes, a son, who was nearly two. She also has a son, 16 years-old. She said it goes so fast. Does it? Does it? Everyone says their kids grow up in the blink of an eye. I guess my eye is still in mid-blink because the last two years have been two of the longest of my life.
Although, I am starting to get a glimpse of what those moms already know. Last week I pulled out Jack's baby DVDs and we watched them- and, honestly, I can barely remember Jack as a baby, let alone that entire first year. We watched the video because our neighbor just had her first son. I saw her the other day and she told me that some days she feels likes she's getting it and some days she feels completely lost. I had also forgotten how completely consuming parenting is those first few months with the first child. It's an experience like no other, and an experience that you only understand when, well, experiencing it. I swear it took me three months just to learn what to expect from any given day. And, that still changes.
Anyway, I've been particularly conscious of Jack's developmental leaps not so much because he seems so smart (which he is, of course), but because it means he's becoming more and more of an individual who adjusts to life without me or Ed. As Ed mentioned in our last post, we drove up to Mt. Washington (famous for its "My Car Climbed Mt. Washington" bumber sticker- the one Ed ranted about earlier and the one that makes me laugh because the darn mountain is barely 6,000 ft). We stayed at a particularly nice (yet deserted) resort condo with two bedrooms. Jack slept on the double bed in the main room. I worried about him being scared in a new place, but despite a lingering cough, he did rather fine. At the end of our trip I asked Ed if he thought Jack was scared but just didn't say anything- something that Ed & I both did as children. We can both remembering falling asleep thinking we heard footsteps coming down the hall, but just dealt with it on our own. Granted, Jack is quite a bit younger than we were when the fake footstep sounds kept us up, but Jack is beginning to learn how to deal with the everyday stuff on his own. And as proud as I am of his ability to adjust and adapt, the gutteral maternal drive to protect him from any growing pains simmers just beneath the logical, evolutionary push to let Jack survive and thrive as much on his own as possible.
This is why I have that oh-so familiar bitter sweet pang of emotions all parents must experience when they see evidence that their children are growing up. On the three hour drive home from Bartlett, New Hampshire, Jack sat in his car seat and did remarkably well. At one point, his cough was acting up, but he was determined to finish his chocolaty digestive cookie in order to suck on blankie. One thing I don't like about blankie is that the edges, despite frequent washings, display stains of nearly every food Jack eats. He will store food like a chipmunk in his cheeks so that when, after eating, he gets his blanket, and sucks on the edges while simultaneously finishing whatever meal he had stored in his cheeks. Thus, gross blanket corners. I turned around after he coughed and noticed all the cookie bits in his mouth just as his hand was about to bring blankie to suckville. I said, "Jack, why don't you just finish chewing your cookie before putting blankie in your mouth so you don't get cookie and chocolate all over blankie" - a sentence I've said many times in the past that didn't make any difference to blankie's fate. Jack looked at me and plainly responded, "Okay." He pulled his blankie down back to his lap, finished chewing up his cookie - with an open mouth to show me exactly how well he was chewing - and then put blankie in his mouth. I was stunned. I might as well have said, "Jack, what's Einstein's theory of relativity?" to which Jack might as well have calmly answered, "E=MC2."
I have no idea when Jack learned what "okay" meant, or how to say the word. It's the first I've heard of it. It got me thinking about all the other words he just uses without instruction or coaching. And, the words he's beginning to mimic easily. (Ed thought he was going to get pulled over by a cop on our trip home. Jack yelled a barely coherent "Fuuu..." from the backseat after Ed growled the clear version). I'm trying hard to remember the amazement of it all because I'm sure that in a few months sentences will be as common place as any conversation (well, almost). I do want to appreciate his growing up as much as I can; I just am not sure that the appreciation truly happens until well after the fact that the growing up part is pretty much over (is it ever?).