Her Bad Mother

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Sometime, over the past few days, over the past few weeks, over some period of time that I have lost track of, WonderBaby became a little girl.

I don't know when or how it happened. It wasn't overnight; I would have noticed if she'd gone to bed a baby and awoken a girl. That is, at least, I think that I would have noticed. You would think that one would notice something so extraordinary as the transformation of one's baby into a child. You would think that one would notice the body unfolding from its coil of plushy arms and legs, of curvy belly and apple cheeks, into a soft-muscled miniature form of the whole person that it will become.

You would think that you would notice, but you don't.

My eyes only see my baby. My heart only registers her newness, her vulnerability, the extraordinary miracle of her having come-to-be. My daughter is, to me, still small and new and surprising. No matter how fierce, how fast, how powerful she demonstrates herself to be, she is still, to me, baby. And I am, to me, as a mother, still small and new and surprised. No matter how good at this I think I am still, to me, new.

She and I, then, are - must be - baby and mommy. I cradle her, and she presses herself against me and holds on to me, for life, for dear life, and I can only feel her as baby. Soft, downy, fragrant, curvy. Even in the dead heat of summer, as damp tendrils of wispy hair become pressed, wet, like flowers, between her neck and my cheek, as rivulets of body-water, streaked with the dirt of the sandbox, run down between her warm round belly and my own, she is, to me, as sweet and new as spring.

But, then, she pulls away and unfolds her long legs and demands her shoes. And then we walk, she and I, hand-in-hand to the park, where she breaks away and runs - speeds - to the slide, to the sawhorse, to her beloved swing (whing! whing! up mommy up! whing!), to the other children, running playing shrieking laughing breaking away.

And I wonder, when did this happen? And, how did I not see it happening? How did I not notice the moment when she uncoiled, unfurled, flowered into this little human being, this tiny independent creature who runs so fast and so far and so assuredly and who returns only to grab my hand not for her own comfort but for mine? Now mommy come.

Every day she flies higher, faster, further. Every day I look on in amazement, blinking against the sun, the rush of air, as my baby, my wee baby, takes flight. Every day I am astonished. Every day I am surprised.

Every day I whisper, softly, to myself: this is too fast.

The carousel spins and the swing soars and she runs and runs and shrieks with glee, feeling only the wind in her hair, the exhilaration of flinging herself into this world. I see only the blur of the landscape of our life together as it speeds by.

I squeeze my eyes together and I wish wish wish that it would slow down.


Blogger BOSSY said...

If you find out where to purchase the Brakes to slow this whole ride down, would you mind telling Bossy?

2:08 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

The extraordinary speed at which they grow and develop is astonishing.

I want off the ride sometimes, as it is much too fast for my taste.

Maybe I should try enjoying it more...

Beautiful post, Catherine.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ride will only go faster HBM, so hold on tight.

She will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be your baby.

2:22 PM  
Blogger m said...

It's those moments when we cuddle, smell their sweet scalps, nose tickled by curling whisps of hair, those are the paused moments of parenthood. They are brief and become less and less frequent, but that is why we cherish them so much.

She is growing fast and beautiful and strong. She will make you so very proud.

2:23 PM  
Blogger OhTheJoys said...

This is such a lovely post.


On mornings like this one, when The Mayor was a complete and total *ss (I'm with you on the * issue presented at the Shake Shake home base today) I wish it would speed the h*ll up.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Two Shews said...

I am so, so, so there with you. Ask Wonderbaby to accidentally whack you in the face with something. It always works to clear my misty eyes.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally love this post! I have been having very similar feelings/and difficulty with Carter growing up as of late. It seems the more independent they become, the harder it is to cope.

I'm going to be a huge ball of mess in like 7 years when he wants nothing to do with me.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's nothing left to say. Except I love this post, too.

I wrote once about my mother freaking out on me just before I left for college, yelling as she pointed at a picture of a young me, "I will never have that little girl back. She's gone!" I was bewildered, at best. I swear, she was trying to force time to reverse by the sheer ferocity of her voice.

Love the WonderBaby.

2:55 PM  
Blogger ms blue said...

Yet another thing that is shocking, mysterious and scary about parenting. How do they do it? It's like magic.

I miss that babyness but adore the toddler fun.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Jezer said...

That is so painfully beautiful and true.

3:03 PM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

yup, crying. beautiful post.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Ah, damnit, Catherine. You've made me cry.

I know how you feel. The contrast between baby and boy is so stark for me because I look at my Big H at 2 1/2 & Little H, only 15 months younger, and I see how fast it happens. How fast it will also happen to my Little H.

The pictures for this post were just perfect.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

I think this is how people end up with more than one kid.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

That happened to Bub, too, that sudden transformation from baby to child - only I noticed it because it happened while I was in the hospital giving birth to the Pie. He was twenty months old - that's when you notice it.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

I remember thinking when I had Rosebud that Papoosie Girl was so big - such a big girl at 2 and a half. Now when I look back at the photos, I think oh my she was such a baby when Rosebud was born! It is a fluid path and one day you will look up and she will have changed again.

And you heart will break again. Mine does.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Tara (aka AbbysMomma) said...

Right there with ya...know what's really scary? When you look at your 4.5 year old baby (she's my only---she'll always be my baby) and realize that ALL traces of preschooler are gone and she looks like a little person in every possible way. Hugs to you. Grab on with both hands and hold it (her) while you can.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Yes, Bub - she's just pushing 19 and half months old. I guess it's the age. BIG SIGH.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wistful post!

I teach high school and, although I am childless, I appreciate your melancholy. It is both joy and a sense of sadness at the prospect of the next stage of their lives...it comes in wave after eddying wave.

Last night I said good-bye to grade 12 graduates at our school. I remember them as 13 year olds who suddenly blossomed into 17 year olds on the cusp of university. I have enjoyed teaching them and getting to know them, to offer a sympathetic ear in a crisis and to just enjoy chatting with them. I wish them well, but I shall miss them.

I know that this can't compare with parenthood, but, at times, I feel as if I have had thousands of children during my sixteen years of teaching.

Such are the joys.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly how I feel about my little one. And he's going to be three in September. I keep thinking it was yesterday that he was just a baby.

It makes me try to remember what he looked like then.

3:39 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

MF looked so terribly grown up after we had Baby Boo. So terribly grown up

And I'm already freaked out that my little Baby Boo (ok, not so little, he's moose no 2) is already 16 weeks old tomorrow! It seems like just yesterday I brought him home!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Oh you didn't miss it...it DID happen overnight. I was suspicious this was true so I watched closely the second time and yep, overnight.

WB does make a lovely little girl. Can you stand those legs when they get long? Oh the legs just kill me, little legs, tiny wrists.

We have no more babies in our house now.

I am surprisingly happy and suprisingly sad about that.

Persistence says whing too. :)

4:02 PM  
Blogger AndreAnna said...

This was so wonderfully written.

My daugher is almost 14-months-old and already her independence leaves me in the shadows, wishing she would need me a little more. "Do, do, do MAMA!" because she means "I do" when she grabs the spoon from my hand and paints pudding down her face. "Soos, soos" she cries, as she wholeheartedly tries to cram her little toes into her pink sandals.

It won't be long before she can get the spoon in her mouth without turning upside down, or put her own shoes on.

So for now, I cling to every second, because as you reminded me, they are fleeting.

My mom always says to me, when I'm in a fit of hysteria because I can
t.take.one.more.second: "The days are long, but the years fly by."

How true.

4:13 PM  
Blogger tracey.becker1@gmail.com said...

My "baby" is 8 now... EVERY minute of their lives is so freakin fast and slow simultaneously. It's a mystery of time/space. I remember my mom trying to explain how she felt about us when my sister's daughter was sick in the hospital: "You know that love that you feel for that tiny child in there? That's what I feel for you, but add 28 years to it." It keeps on growing!

I was cuddling with all 3 of my kids in bed last night. For some reason, they all like being shirtless at bedtime. I was rubbing their backs, noticing the differences in skin tone and texture... from 1 yr to 5 yrs to 8 yrs.... And all too soon, 10 yr and 15 and 30... Always my babies.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

Yes, I am looking for a pause button....

What a great little person you have, there!

4:24 PM  
Blogger Not So Anonymous Michelle said...

AWESOME POST, I was just experiencing the same sort of feelings after my daughter's recent 2nd birthday. Last night though when she curled up with me and wanted mama...I remembered, she'll always be my baby, even when the moments that she wants to run and play and be independent outnumber the cuddly ones more and more now.

4:32 PM  
Blogger merinz said...

Hehe, my baby is now 26, has headed off to the bright lights of Sydney Australia to work and is now planning to go to London.

Our older three have all followed the same path but somehow it didn't upset me quite so much. One comfort is that the homing instinct is strong and they all finally return.

Hang on to those childhood moments, they are gone all too soon.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it is sudden and heart rending. But for years to come there will still be moments when she is your baby. I promise.

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I believe it is meant to be that we don't notice the flight...otherwise we'd never let them leave the ground!!!

That's how strong this motherhood thing is.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...


4:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

And then sometimes I look at pictures of my 8 year old when he was 5 and discover that he was a baby at 5 and I keep missing the day it happened, cause it keeps happening over and over again. When he was 5 I was so sure he was big, but I just caught a home movie of him and he was clearly a baby, but not a baby, just mine. As for my younger two, I can hardly breathe sometimes for the pace at which they grow and go.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Beck said...

..... and that is the moment when I instantly become pregnant again EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Good thing The Baby is little.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Yes, my friend.

And as they grow, so do we...and it is inconceivable to us that we are aging for we just started this life stuff...and hey, what do you mean you don't want me to kiss you in front of the school?

Sometimes I take out the few baby outfits of Emily's that I kept and I smell them. And Baby Emily is still there. And then I dust off and go make big girl Emily dinner and help her negotiate life as a pre-teen.

Thats why they are given to us as small beings. So we can transition with them.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Awesome post!

6:46 PM  
Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

Ah yes...my baby used to need me to follow her across the playground.

Today she takes of running and is madly introducing herself to her new friends and playing.

I am there for sand cakes and a drink of water..and the booboos too.


7:38 PM  
Blogger LSM said...

Now that my oldest is 13, I think about how fast time has flown by all the time. She's literally developed from child to teen over the last year, and I realize how soon she'll be on her way to college. It seems like yesterday I was a new mom, and she was Wonder Baby's age. Somehow, I'm even more amazed that my baby boy is 8. How did that happen?

7:42 PM  
Blogger LSM said...

Now that my oldest is 13, I think about how fast time has flown by all the time. She's literally developed from child to teen over the last year, and I realize how soon she'll be on her way to college. It seems like yesterday I was a new mom, and she was Wonder Baby's age. Somehow, I'm even more amazed that my baby boy is 8. How did that happen?

7:42 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Lovely. And true. So heartbreakingly true.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh... you made me cry (in front of the in-laws no less).

My own little girl is still at the clinging little monkey stage, but even now there are brief, very brief moments, where she already seems so independent. It seems to happen so fast. You definitely touched a nerve and my own fears with this post...

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too fast.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Candygirlflies said...

Oh, I'm with you, HBM, I'm with you... I've made all three of my girlies promise me faithfully that they will NEVER grow up, but with each day that passes, it becomes increasingly evident that it's a promise they just won't be able to keep...

What will I do when there are no more little arms stretching out to me, needily wanting "UP"? In a fit of harried frustration the other day, I asked my Child Number Three WHY she wanted to be UP so often, when she is capable of walking by herself.

Her answer? "Because it NICE."

Oh, it's more than nice. It's heaven. I have to keep reminding and reminding myself of that, because childhood slips out of our arms far, far too quickly...

9:25 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

What is worse is how hard it is to remember some of the things they did when they were younger---their mannerisms, their way of speaking, their touch. That drives me crazy and makes me want to bottle up every single moment.

9:55 PM  
Blogger flutter said...

Oh but what a ride, if even it be too quick. She is breathtaking.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Gidge Uriza said...

I hate it when they wake up Not Babies. Mine all did that one day when I was not looking, dammit.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is amazing how fast they grow. My almost-4 year old is SO BIG; I am hanging on to his little brother while I can - luckily he is my cuddly one, so maybe I can slow it down just a little bit...
this post brought tears to my eyes and wishes to my heart.

10:56 PM  
Blogger moosh in indy. said...

*sigh* I hear you. Maybe this is why people have more than one.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Chiconky said...

So beautiful. I have tears in my eyes. Thank you.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Candace April said...

What a beautiful post! I already feel like Baby Diva's babyhood is slipping away and she is definitely still a baby. Blink and she'll be grown, though.

11:38 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I remember noticing long ago that Pumpkinpie was turning from baby into toddler, and then more recently, just a few months back, that she no longer even looked like a toddler, but was taking on the proportions of a girl child, the same proportions she would have for a good several years, though in larger sizes. It's so wonderful-sad...

12:22 AM  
Blogger JChevais said...

I treasure every moment that I can pull a cuddle out of my rapidly aging kids.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

I feel this way too sometimes.
I'm not sure many can relate to this, but sometimes I embrace that feeling of sadness that he is growing up - that huge expanse of love I feel - because when my son was that little baby, I struggled so much with my emotions, PPD, etc. I look back at those days, and how unhappy I was, and I am so grateful for how I feel now. Sometimes that feeling of my son growing up is just so overwhelming, but then I remember.
Beautiful post. I feel that way so often.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Michelle Constantinescu said...

Beautiful, beautiful! You've expressed my own thoughts.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Magpie said...

Oh, so true.

Mine's a little older, and yesterday she actually looked like a kid. Sigh.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i saw the little boy in my baby boy (20 months) yesterday for the first time. my breath caught. my heart broke. i closed my eyes and willed time to stand still.

it is a weird feeling this motherhood thing - to look forward to their future and who they'll become and at the same time wanting so much for them to remain as they are.

10:43 AM  
Blogger cathy said...

Damn it! You made me cry with that post, and I really hate to cry! With an almost 4 yr old and an almost 1 yr old, I've been where you are now and will be there again in the near future. It's amazing and wonderful to watch your children grow up, but at the same time it's heartbreaking. Thanks for your wonderful post - even if it did make me cry. Off to go hug the kids now!

11:34 AM  
Blogger Blog said...

My little monkey has become a little girl, too! And, I love it! I love how every day she has more words, becomes more independent, etc.. She's also newly stubborn, and has a BAD temper! But, yeah, I do love this growing up -- you're right, though, it doesn't have to happen so fast!

3:25 PM  
Blogger Maewen Archer said...

It's the long legs -- suddenly they're kids. My baby boy (the last baby) is on the verge of getting tall -- I'm so going to miss his chubby legs. I'm wondering why we decided not to have more.

So sweet ....

3:59 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

Beautiful post. It is crazy how it happens. All of a sudden you have a CHILD and not a baby. It blindsides you.

4:55 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

How do you manage to write so beautifully about the things I have felt, as well? I don't know how it happened that PunditBaby became a PunditGirl who seems to take up almost the whole length of her twin bed. Not really, but her arms and legs and body have all grown so much, I almost can't remember the baby.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

oh, i know. oh, do i know.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Mommato2 said...

I am so right there with you. My 6 and 4 year olds are still my "babies" and I suspect I will be like that stalker Mother in Love You Forever sneaking into her grown children's homes to rock them to sleep!

9:22 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

lovely writing!

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

62 comments later, I'm sure it's all been said, but I'll say it anyway: brilliant post.

I'm still not over the "I'll be missing everything now that I'm back at work" phase, and you truly hit home with this one.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Granny said...

No comment box on your Canada Day post?

Happy Canada Day to one and all.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Her Grace said...

Oh, I know. It goes so fast. Enjoy your little cutie.

9:56 PM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

I smile widely.

I love this post as a stranger. But after seeing you two I love it more.

Remember when I asked. How old is she again? I looked at her growth and her waning babyness as she stood between my girl and my baby, each one year either side of her.. And, she daunted me. Making me miss those days for E. and disdain them for A.

Though it might sound banal. Enjoy these days they are some of the best. It will be a wonderful summer.

1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that is one cute kid

11:02 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

Beautiful post... i wonder the very same things :)

2:46 PM  
Blogger Creative-Type Dad said...

I wish it would slow down too...

It's just sad.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

yep...almost everyday one of us has to mention how we miss our daughter being a "baby" even though technically she has 3 more weeks before she's a toddler. And it's weird to think about how when she was first born that I couldn't wait to see what she was going to be ike as a toddler! This is why no one can ever really explain what being a parent is really like...it's not enough to say your heart is going to be ripped out of your chest everyday for the simple fact "she looks older today".

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. So true.

My baby boy struggles now against the hugs and kisses his loving mommy wants to bestow. He is too big, too wild, too free to be contained in my arms.

Unless... unless... sometimes I can hold him, stroke him, cuddle him. And for that moment, he's still my baby.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Lainey-Paney said...

Yeah...somewhere along the way, my baby turned into a little boy. What happened to all of the time?

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Belated Birthday to WonderBaby. Must we now start calling her WonderGirl?

It's a strange thing, seeing our girls grow. Mimi's starting kindergarten in a few short weeks and my mind cannot comprehend this.

9:40 AM  
Blogger tallulah said...

Child #5 and I am feeling as you do. Slow down. Wait.
Every birthday I mourn and celebrate another year for each of my children. Little people growing up so fast.

11:27 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home