There is an all-too-brief period after your baby is born when you can count their age in hours… Then you, and your family and all of the officials you meet adopt days as the unit of currency. Until days are too small a period to work, and the unit grows again. For most of the first year, you count their age in weeks, before, reluctantly in my case, turning to months around the time they hit 40 weeks (or the magic 280 days for which this blog was named). That’s the point they’ve been on the outside longer than they were inside!
Then, you approach their first birthday, the first time they actually have ‘an age’. Your baby is one. A one-year-old. But still, most parents I know I carry on using months until at least 18 of them have passed. Some persist until 24 full months have gone by.
I’ve lately been thinking about growing up, and how we watch and remember our loved ones growing and changing, especially our children. Today is Eddy’s first birthday. To my mind, that’s the time he goes from his age being counted in days, weeks and months to having a round number. He is an age. He’s a one-year-old.
I’ve loooong been promising a post on here about ageing, and memory, and watching your child growing up from those early weeks where it seems something is changing every day, to the later months when the changes are less frequent, but more significant. I’ve already mentioned that the great (and thankfully not late, despite expectations) Wilko Johnson summarised it beautifully with his line that he realised as his kids grew, that time is taking our children away from us.
I’ve also written about my sadness at seeing the little tiny I things I loved Eddy doing slip away as he’s grown up even over the past 12 months. If you remember my post about that, you’ll be pleased to hear that his development has motored on and he’s now coordinated enough to let go of things when he wishes. Obviously, I’m ecstatic he’s developing and growing, but I’m already nostalgic for a time mere months ago when his cute little foibles were still in place.
The great thing about being a parent I’ve discovered is that while he grows out of one cute habit, others quickly spring up to replace them. The current ones are resting his head on a cushion when he gets tired at the end of the day; playing peek-a-boo with you while he has his meals; and snuffle-snorting with pleasure when his favourite things appear (usually food!).
Our digital age means we can capture an infinity of memories if we wish to. And anyone reading this blog probably knows I’m doing my best to! And I’ve worried on here before that doing that might devalue the memories we retain by dint of their very prevalence… I hope I’m not turning Eddy into a digital butterfly, capturing his image but not his essence by pinning him into jpegs and MP4s like a collector with a net and a perfect Cabbage White pinned to a board. That said, in the past few weeks I’ve managed to get Eddy’s first steps on film (well, on MP4), as well as some priceless lay brilliant photos of moments I may not remember in a month, let alone a decade. And I think that is worth being outside the moment for an instant to ensure.
Counting up is an odd thing to do. Witnessing the units you’re counting in getting larger as time passes by is both a strange sadness and a satisfying mark of success. Whenever I find myself wishing the time away – to Eddy’s next big achievement, to my next day off with him, to the end of this nappy change – I try to remind myself that not so very long ago at all I was still counting his age in hours, and before I know it, I’ll be looking back over decades we’ve spent together. That’s enough to bring me back into the moment and to be thankful for it – even if sometimes there’s an iPhone camera between me and it recording it for enjoy later!