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Becoming my parents

The only time the three of them were in the same place.
Virginia April 2012
There is a very short list of things my parents did that I swore I would never do. Several years ago, my sisters and I found our baby books in the back of a cabinet. Excitedly, we opened them all up. My baby book was filled out cover to cover, complete with stickers for extra special milestones. My middle sister's baby book had a great start, the first two months fairly well documented, only to taper off quickly and never finishing. My youngest sister's baby book only had her name written in the front. The same goes for pictures and videos of us as infants. There are videos documenting my smallest milestones, bathing, interacting with family members. You could watch the first two years of my life on the VHS collection marked "Kimber-Bee." And then my middle sister was born and there were lots of videos of the two of us, lots of pictures of the two of us. My youngest sister? If you had to see it to believe it, you would never know she was an infant. My sisters found the baby books funny, only showing slight irritation that theirs were never completed (or even started, in the case of my youngest sister). My middle sister jokes that the only reason there are even videos of her as a baby is because I was in the shot. In our hearts, we vowed that when we have kids (isn't this your favorite vow when pointing out what your parents are doing wrong?) we would be sure to document and record all of them equally.

And now here I am in a very similar situation as my own mother-- similar because she has four children. My oldest son not only has his own scrapbook baby book-- complete with every card given to us at his birth and carefully arranged mementos of his first year-- but also a beautiful Shutterfly photo book that I have yet to order (okay, I admit it... I have to finish the last couple pages). C and O? They have "first year calendars." I went to Hallmark, set to buy baby books and give them the same keepsakes that I had so painstakingly worked on for D, when I recollected the hours I spent gluing in movie tickets, pictures, greeting cards... a cold shiver ran down my spine. Instead of the blank scrapbooks, I reached for two calendars, a much more manageable option. When I brought them home, I mumbled to my husband that I would actually be making their baby books on Shutterfly and these are just for now. The first three months are full of detail, weights at doctor's appointments and "firsts." The fourth month on each calendar is spotty. The fifth month, well, I don't know, because the calendars are still hanging on the wall open to the fourth month. No, wait, they were moved, so aren't they in that box in their closet...?

Brothers being silly.
Virginia April 2012
And I've learned something: the "firsts" are always exciting. I show everyone how adorable O's clap is, have C wave bye-bye to all his little friends. I think I tell every cashier that C is this close to walking. I watched in amazement when O figured out how to army crawl, made everyone come watch when C started rolling across the room to get the XBox (it was so cute that I left the XBox within reach-- don't tell my husband). When friends tell me they are expecting, I remember all of those amazingly warm feelings from the first year: holding your newborn child for the first time, the first night in his crib, the first smile. Those precious "firsts" are what makes everything worthwhile.

I don't know what drove me to write down every minute first for D. I think I felt like I didn't want to forget a single moment. I imagined looking through the scrapbook with his wife, comparing his milestones with his own children's. My children have grown my heart larger than I thought possible. My love overflows for each of them, each of them their own precious person in my eyes. I love the moments I can steal one-on-one with them or the silly moments when they make me laugh at loud. But filling out each baby book... I think that was my "first." I think I was cherishing my first time being a momma, my first time watching a person grow in front of my eyes, my first time loving someone that deeply. The love I have for my children is different than the love I have for my spouse, for my sisters, for my parents, or for my friends. With my husband, I feel he is my rock, my base, my guide. My children feel as though they are tiny extensions of myself, equal halves of my husband and myself. We feel it is our responsibility to teach them love, to guide them, to assist them in becoming their own people, to protect them, and to provide for them. Writing everything down was a way for me to celebrate that new kind of love in my life.

Looking at the pictures and videos I have of them, I see the change. With D, every "first" was new. Every "first" was just as big of a surprise to me as it was to him, "You can sit up! Omigosh, you are sitting up!" This time I feel more like, "All right, baby, you can sit up! Now can you roll?" The farther we moved into the first year-- and now beyond-- the more comfortable I was with my role as a mother of three. I knew what to expect when caring for newborns or dealing with colds. For a long time with D-- and even after C and O came home-- it felt like I was playing house. I had this little person to take care of, that I loved so much, but I still couldn't believe he was ours and that we would be so blessed to be his parents. It felt strange telling friends or family "no" because of nap schedules or our parenting techniques. We had a vision of the type of parents we wanted to be and what we were moving towards even though we weren't there yet. It is a strange transition from being an adult to being a parent. My husband and I were both very comfortable in our own skins and suddenly we were asserting ourselves in a new role-- the advocate for our children.

Getting a better view...
Virginia April 2012
The answer is not we had "been there done that" already. When my momma told us after we found the baby books, "It's not that I didn't care about the firsts. I just knew what to expect and loved each of you," it sounded like a cop out. Coming from a large family, we had heard a lot of reasons as to why things were the way they were, "We love each of you the same. Kimber gets a new bike because she is the oldest girl and you get her new-to-you bike because that is the way it is." We were used to being grouped as one ("The girls wanted to go to McDonalds"), blanket statements ("That's just the way it is"), and disclaimers ("You are my favorite oldest daughter. You are my favorite middle daughter. You are my favorite youngest daughter"). Now that I am the mother, I understand what she is saying. I love my boys. I love them equally and I love them for their individual personalities. Much as I am bound to being one of three sisters, they will always be three brothers, best friends and worst enemies. I can already hear them asking why D has two baby books and why C and O's aren't finished. I can hear them asking who is the favorite, who do we love the most, and why does he get to go first? I can already hear myself giving the same pat answers my parents gave me.

I'm not sure if we are all doomed to become our parents. While I am occasionally shocked at how quickly I fell into the model of parenting my parents provided for me, I am always proud to find myself doing the things they did right (which is actually quite a lot, especially now that I am in their shoes). My favorite discussions with my husband are always about what things were like when we were kids, our favorite things our parents did. We both love how our family has fallen into an easy rhythm and the joy our children bring us. And so, boys, you may or may not have completed baby books. I honestly don't know when or if I will get around to finishing them. I can tell you that, regardless, your parents have enjoyed and cherished every moment that they have been blessed to spend with you. And that's just the way it is.

Comments

This is very sweet.
I only have one child, but I documented every moment of my pregnancy with her, the first year and a half... and then that's where things started getting spotty with me. I don't have the excuse of having another child, just being lazy :) It is very sweet of you to make Shutterfly books for your children because those take a LOT of work. Good luck to you, sweet mama!
Jamie said…
So glad you stopped by my blog! And, man, a three year old and one year old twins? I know that has to be tough! But, a blessing, too! My husband's sister is also named Kimber. I don't know any other ones. :)
Kimber said…
Haha! Classic Mommy, The Shutterfly books have NOT happened yet... and I think I am good two months behind in uploading pictures. I almost had D's finished before the babies were born, but haven't made any more progress since my last pregnancy.
Jamie, I enjoyed your blog! I am really a Kimberly, but my family and friends call me Kimber (or Momma). I thought it sounded catchier a little catchier in the blog title. ;)
Thank you both for stopping by my blog! And keep up your great posts!!

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