There was a season in my life, not too long ago, when I would look at my baby boy and, without the slightest bit of irony whatsoever, tell myself “I will be nursing forever. There will be no end to this. My entire life will be spent nursing this child.”
If you had, during that time, told me that I would be nursing straight through the college years I would’ve believed you. Today, Beta is four and he hasn’t nursed in over two years. This, among other things, means his graduation dinner will not involve any human body parts. Hallelujah!
Everything, good or bad, is magnified under the scrutiny of the intense experience that is caring for your very first child. Anything we went through with my boy (nursing, tantrums, walking, more tantrums, toilet training, have I mentioned tantrums?) seemed to stretch interminably. Of course, now with Beti, the second child, I know better. I know that she won’t nurse forever; that at 13 months, we are already over the hill and the sunset of our nursing relationship is near. And when the long drawn physical and mental anguish commonly known as weaning is over, just like Beta before her, Beti will remember absolutely nothing of the months and months of silent nourishment I provided.
The question is, will I? With kids, so much of what we celebrate centres around the first time they do something. A milestone reached, an aim achieved, an ambition realised — our parenting days are littered with satisfying firsts. I remember the excitement when I saw Beta’s first little white tooth poking through his gums, the joy at his first steps and the torrential gush of maternal love at his first “Mama”. And of course, can there be any pride to match a mother’s pride when her child pees in the toilet for the very first time?
But, with the days flying by and Beta and Beti hitting milestones left, right and centre, I realise that while anticipating and celebrating the firsts is good fun, I usually forget what’s been left behind and I’m never sure if that’s a good thing or bad. As in, do I remember the last time something was done a certain way? No matter how hard I try, I can’t recall the last time that Beta nursed. Was I frustrated that day too? Was I fidgety and agitated, willing him to sleep? I also can’t remember the last day he sat in a high chair or took his final morning nap and a million other little things that marked the passage from baby to toddler and from toddler to the little kid he is today.
Of course, before this gets too touchy-feely, let me be the first to roll my eyes and say that boy, am I glad I have no recollection of certain lasts! I don’t care that I have no idea when the last time was that Beta pooped in his diaper or when he bit me, during that nasty biting phase he went through. Parenting, whether in the past, present or future is not all soft cuddles and sweet memories. It is long, tiresome, mindless drudgery on many, many days filled with moments I would rather forget. So it’s a good thing I don’t remember everything about our nursing marathons.
Today I am a mom to a four year old boy who loves tangrams, zebras, his blue patchwork blanket, and the iPad. He likes to play by himself and often bursts out laughing apropos of nothing that I can see. There’s a whole world inside him that I am not privy to and it frequently causes friction in our interactions because one of us is always misunderstanding the other. He hasn’t nursed in years and for this I am deeply thankful. Still, I can’t help but be a little wistful for those early days because — well, first of all, it was a lot easier to keep him fed back then! But more importantly, because it was, quite simply, the least complicated season in our evolving relationship as mother and son. With nursing, nothing was lost in translation. And that’s a hard thing not to miss.
Hiba Masood is a stay-at-home mother to four-year-old Beta and one-year-old Beti. Writing about parenting affords her time away from actually doing it.
Connect with Drama Mama online at www.facebook.com/etdramamama for more thoughts on the crazy ride of motherhood
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, January 13th, 2013.
Like MsT on Facebook for your dose of girl talk.