Miss P is a serial hugger these days. It’s the most adorable thing: she will be in the middle of playing, suddenly get up and make her way over, and wrap her arms around our necks. She gives the biggest, warmest most cuddliest hugs that make your heart well up and explode, to the point that you want to run circles and punch yourself because you JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO with all the feels you feel!
This behavior is of course sprinkled with the usual suspects of toddler-hood, so big fat disclaimer, this is not how it is every moment. And I know what you’re thinking, veteran parents: just you wait. It’s only a matter of time before she morphs into a demonic creature who will only eat if sitting backwards in her highchair and wearing her favorite cape, refusing anything green while you clean fresh-cooked meals off the walls, then you’ll blink and she’ll be a teenager telling you exactly where you can put your curfews and your horrible hairstyle. But I DON’T CARE!
(HOLDS HANDS OVER EARS, CLOSES EYES AND SAYS “LA LA LA!!!”)
I want to be oblivious, drunk off her hugs and blinded by her current cuteness, and say bat-shit crazy things like “Let’s have three more RIGHT NOW and then our lives and our rock band will be complete!!! Mooohoooohahahahaha!!”
Leave me to naively get lost in the maze of this current phase, and bump into those inevitable roadblocks and changing walls and trap doors that are sure to show up and swallow me whole. That’s fine. But I’m going to enjoy this stage while it lasts and soak up every bit of it.
Because as I’ve already seen in just fourteen short months, stages pass WAY too fast. Case in point: today marks the day I retire her jellies.
I feel like it was just yesterday that her little feet kept flopping out of them because they were too big but I put them on her anyway. (She wasn’t walking yet so what’s the big deal, right?) And now, she’s busted out of them. Of all the things she has outgrown already, for some reason these are hitting me the hardest.
Putting away the jellies of course feels like waving goodbye to summer, to warm weather, light clothes, and celebrations of her first birthday and baptism.
But the looming chore of putting the jellies away also reminds me of something that happened last year.
Last year, when Miss P was very little and I began to slowly feel like a normal member of society again, I began to take her out. The mall was one of my favorite places to go, not because I was on shopping sprees (I’d leave my wallet in the car so I wouldn’t be tempted), but because it was a place I could walk around for free with air conditioning and get out of my house while giving P an opportunity to (hopefully) take a nap.
*Side note: this doesn’t seem noteworthy at the moment, and probably sounds ridiculous to someone who has not had a child, but when you are in that place where your body starts to feel like yours again and you somehow muster enough confidence and wherewithal to leave your house with a tiny new human, pretending like you have any business being some sort of parent or something, you feel like you scaled Everest. (Look at me, all walkin’ around with my baby! I got both of us dressed, fed, and out of the house! One of us just peed our pants, but it doesn’t matter, because WE DID IT!! Why aren’t more people Hi-five-ing me?!?!?!)*
Anyway, this particular morning I got there super early, just as the mall was opening. I pulled into my parking space not far from another person with the same idea. The driver was a woman who appeared to be in her mid-fifties, maybe. We each got out of our cars.
We smiled at each other as I reached into the trunk and pulled out the stroller and I noticed that the woman seemed to be doing the same thing. “Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder if she’s a hip, young grandma, babysitting? Or maybe she’s one of those ladies who takes her dog to the mall in an expensive stroller. We are in South Park, so that’s a possibility.” We smiled again, this time nodded, as if to say, “I understand what you’re doing,” and then I got lost in the task of stroller-assembly.
I tossed my diaper bag into the bottom of the stroller and placed my bottle of water in the cup holder. My fellow friend was on a parallel path with her set up. Now, finally, it was time to get the baby! I reached into the backseat and carefully unfastened the car seat belt and slid Miss P’s arms out through the straps. My new friend over there was fumbling around her backseat, too. I wonder if she has a little boy, or little girl?
I lifted Miss P out of her chair. As I carried her around the back of the car, I looked over at my fellow parking lot buddy and saw that she was carrying her passenger, too – only her passenger appeared to be her elderly mother. A closer look at her “stroller” proved it to be a wheelchair.
We smiled, locked our cars, said ‘good morning’ and strolled next to each other for a moment. We held the door for each other, then nodded and went our separate ways, and it hit me like a ton of bricks: these stages pass too damn fast.
And one day, when P is assembling my high-tech-state-of-the-art-mobile-pimp-chair, as she adjusts my fashion-forward, wine-dispensing helmet ever so gently on my head, taking me with her on her daily excursions whether she has an errand to run or just so I can get out of the house, I want to remind her not of the vegetables she threw at the wall or how she broke her curfew, but of jelly shoes, and all those delicious little hugs she gave during the stages that passed too fast.