Long before Calvin, when I simply daydreamed about having a husband and baby of my own, I pictured these sweet moments in my head. Maybe it’s media, maybe it’s stories passed down by family, but these special moments I envisioned were largely firsts: first smile, first word, first steps. I saw these milestones as tearful, sweet moments of laughter and celebration, just like the movies. Last weekend, we took Cal to the beach for the first time. I imagined him playing tirelessly in the sand, giggling uncontrollably as the waves reaches his toes, and soaking in the sun and sight with wonder and awe. That is not what happened.
Preparing for most any possible scenario, I packed and umbrella and towels and snacks and water and sunscreen and hats and wardrobe changes and toys and swim diapers and regular diapers and three different types of wipes. I fed him a big breakfast, and we hit the road. We arrived, parked, and had to carry the bags and towels and umbrella and bucket and baby out to the sand. Then it was a good five minutes of “What now?” Should the umbrella go up first? Or do we lay out our towels? The baby definitely needed sunscreen, but we’d already put him in the sand. As I rubbed the sunscreen and sand into his soft skin, he was understandably unhappy. Then the umbrella fell. I turned to help. Then Calvin rubbed sand and sunscreen in his eye. He was crying. We were frustrated. This was a mistake. After cleaning and comforting Cal and making sure our belongings were secured, we ventured to the water. This was sure to turn things around. He loves baths, so this was sure to be great. I quickly realized that baths aren’t cold and don’t have waves or salt. The ocean is definitely not a bath, and he noticed right away. As I carried my crying baby back to our spot in the sand, I hoped he’d at least take a bottle and calm down a bit. Thankfully, he did, so we sat under an umbrella and gave him snacks for the next hour. Then Joe packed the bags and disassembled the umbrella as I rinsed Calvin in fresh water and changed him into warm clothes. Then we loaded the car up with junk and with sand and with crumbs and ventured home. No giggling, no playing, no wonder, no awe.
Most of Calvin’s firsts have not been what we expected. His first word was what? We really don’t know. He clearly said “Mama” at only a few weeks old when he would get upset, but it had no meaning to him. He didn’t know I was “Mama.” He’s made lots of word-like sounds since then, but which ones are technically words? All of them? The ones that have meaning to him? We weren’t sure when to count the first time he rolled over either. He kind of fell into it a few times. When was it intentional? Hard to say. His first smile? Also, unclear. He made faces that looked like smiles early on, but most were more like yawns. How can we tell when he smiled out of joy for the first time? He hasn’t taken his first steps yet, and least I don’t think he has. He let’s go of furniture while standing and sometimes sort of teeters or toddles once before falling. His development seems consistently on track, and that is what ultimately matters, but these milestones I pictured for so long have been far from the images in my head. We celebrate his progress and continue to expose him to new things, but these Hallmark moments just aren’t where we expected. They’re not in his milestones.
The moments of overwhelming joy, the kind of joy that moves us to tears, are surprisingly found in much simpler circumstances. For instance, last night, Calvin was taking a Tupperware container for a ride around the house in his little red wagon. His highchair was in his path, so he stopped pushing the wagon, moved the highchair, and pushed the wagon through the opening he’d created. Then he put the highchair back where it goes! This is probably a mundane, boring, unnoticeable scene to most, but to us, it was pure magic. He was just so determined and smart and responsible and considerate, and he absolutely amazed us. These are the moments that feel like my daydreams. They exist. They’re real. They’re just not what I expected, like when I asked him where his head was, and he just knew! I don’t know how he knew, but he did! So, I encourage you to embrace these moments. Let yourself really stop what you’re doing and feel the warmth and power these little scenes have to offer. I’m confused about pretty much everything in life, but I feel confident that these moments are what it’s all about. Yours will look different from mine, and they’ll certainly look different than your imagination, but they exist, and they are just as special.