When N and I first announced that we were expecting a Bean, advice and assvice (you know the difference) began coming at us from every direction. The one thing that we heard over and over again was that the first year would be the hardest. In fact, my mom made a point to tell me that the first year was enough to drive someone (perhaps, her?) to never have children again.
The reasoning, I suppose, is that it is hard to give so much of yourself to someone who demands so much and (at least in the beginning) has so little to really give back. From day one, you are expected to give up your sleep, your social life, your disposable income, your body... all in exchange to wipe his stinky ass, take a wizz in the eye from time to time, play endless games of "pick up," and to respond to his beck and call all hours of the day and night. If you are really lucky, you also get to attach a baby or an industrial strength milker to your tits. All you really ask in return is that he do his best to sleep past 4:30 AM. You know what I am talking about.
You begin to forget what you were all about before this little bundle arrived and that feeling
is can be compounded by the rest of the world's compulsion to only want details inquiring minds on how big the baby is getting, how long is he sleeping at night, how many teeth does he have, is he crawling/cruising/walking/talking/taking over the fucking world yet?
And then this little sack of need surprises you one day... and smiles. He says, "dada!" and knows what it means. He gives you "besos" and hugs and you have no idea that it is about to get even harder. Because now, his hands are on everything, particularly those things that are especially dangerous. His little body is invading every single corner of your space. He wants up, he wants down, he wants you to hold him while you are trying to go to the bathroom... heck, he might even try to fish out what you just put in there if you really want it back. Personally, I have never seen neediness move so fast around a room.
But aside from the "demandipants" nature of your child, it is hard because now you know that he is paying attention and taking everything in, you are suddenly aware that you are shaping his world and that "fucking twatrag" would be a very bad first word. So, you give up your most treasured set of adjectives, adverbs and nouns... you adjust your TV watching habits... you learn to censor yourself.
But, as Bean nears his first birthday it suddenly occurred to me the other day that this first year has been a cake-walk compared to what is ahead of us. Not because of the back-chat, the tantrums, girlfriends, driver's licenses, dirty magazines, keggers, failing grades, etc. -- no, those are the incidentals.
This past weekend, we went to a friend's ranch (one of the benefits of living in Central Texas, friends with ranches) and Bean was on his best behavior. Charming as always, chatty, full of energy, and impressive with his motor skills. But, he also made a point of doing some things on his own. He did not want help eating his food, he did not want my help going down the stairs, he did not want to hold my hand walking down the path, and he was quite content to meet the Longhorns and the horse face to face without me at his side. He eagerly went to our friends, eagerly played with their dogs. He helped himself to paper towels in their cabinets and to the sw*iffer in their broom closet.
He did not need me to cuddle him, he did not need me to comfort him in this new place, he did not need my help to fall asleep.
I caught a brief glimpse of my baby Bean growing up, moving on, and taking the reins of his life.
And now that I have become accustomed to the Bean's need, I think that letting go --even a very little bit over a very long time -- will be the hardest thing of all.