With Jack’s first year of life just about behind us, I can’t help but think how much has changed. My tiny, 6 pound 13 ounce baby, is now 19 pounds. No longer does he need me to carry him around everywhere (though he does insist I do most of the time), as he can crawl faster than I think I can walk. He eats, drinks, and plays like a toddler. While part of me is definitely mourning the end of his infancy, the other part can’t wait to see what this next year holds. Every day has brought so much joy, and watching him grow is part of that.
People will always tell you that the first year goes so fast, and it’s hard to actually believe until you have experienced it yourself. And now, having a one year old by my side, I can testify to that. Here are ten ways to enjoy and savor those first twelve months:
1) Don’t Stress
Okay, this is hard, I know. Stress should be my middle name. And it’s sometimes hard to not worry about things. But I’ve found that when I remember that one day I will have all the time in the world to keep my house clean, that I don’t need to teach my son how to read and write before he’s one, and that my dinners don’t have to look like Rachel Ray cooked them, I’m happier. And when I’m happier, Forrest is happier, and Jack is happier. Stress is linked to so many problems — weight gain, headaches, heart attacks!
Most of the time, things turn out okay. Don’t worry about being the best mom in the world — just the best mom for your child. Chances are, you’ll mess up a time of time, but chances are even better that your child will turn out okay. Just keep pushing through, and remember…babies are pretty resilient, as long as they are taken care of and know they are loved. Even though I think my parents probably perfected their parenting skills by the time I came around (I’m number five or six,) they probably did one or two things wrong (on accident, of course.) I think I turned out pretty well.
2) Take Lots of Pictures
It’s amazing how much babies change during the first year. Just the other day, I was looking at Jack’s month comparison pictures, and he doesn’t even look like the same person. While I admit, I take probably more pictures than most people, I don’t think I’ll ever regret it. It’s so fun to be able to look back and remember certain events, and even just random moments, from the past year.
And believe me, your child will one day love being able to look back and see pictures of when they were little. Their future spouse probably will appreciate it as well. Be careful though, your baby might become obsessed with your camera, too! Jack loves to take mine and pretend to take pictures with it. He actually has taken quite a few pictures, as well.
3) Take a Break Every Now and Again
Babies are very demanding. There’s no way around that. And while I totally don’t advocate ditching your child every chance you get, I do think it’s important to have a little “me” time every now and then. Call it a mental health break. Sometimes you just need some time to relax, and remember yourself, and what you want. Even if it’s just during naptime, or you call in a baby sitter, just a little bit of time by yourself (or with your spouse, or even some good friends) can make a world of difference. Lock yourself in the bathroom for 10 minutes with a book and chocolate bar if you want (well, as long as your baby isn’t going to hurt themselves during that time 😉 I think that being able to still be “you” after you have a baby is important. I’ve heard far too many mothers saying they feel like they lost their identities after their babies came along, and I think that is sad. Taking a little bit a time away from parenting duties may very well enhance the quality of the time you do spend with your babies.
4) Ask for Help
No one expects you to be superwomen. And if they do, they’ve obviously never had a child. The day I came home from the hospital with Jack, my mom was there. While some people suggested we take a few days of just Jack, Forrest, and I…I was so glad my mom was there. Those first few weeks were full of tons of emotions — both good and bad — and having my mom there to clean, cook, and just talk to really helped me a lot. Especially because Forrest had to go to a conference for the entire week after Jack’s birth.
Even if your mom can’t come to town, turn to friends or people from the community or church. If someone asks if there is anyway they can help — they mean it! And be sure to take them up on it, if you need the help.
5) Don’t Compare
This is hard not to do. There’s so many parenting books, websites, and charts at the doctor’s office telling you what milestones your child should be reaching. And while it is good to be aware of your child’s development, remember that so many of “deadlines” for these milestones are merely guidelines. Your friend’s baby may be walking at 10 months, and your baby is still content with crawling everywhere past their first birthday. Chances are, they are just fine. Remember, no baby is the same. It just wouldn’t make sense if every baby had the same strengths and weaknesses, and met every single developmental milestone at the exact time.
I’ve found that when I start comparing Jack to others, I either feel discouraged because he isn’t doing the same thing as others, or I get conceited, because I think he’s more “advanced.” Both of these ways of thinking are silly, and once I stopped doing that..I found that I enjoyed Jack more, and other children as well. I think it’s so important to never let your child think they aren’t good enough, and this starts at this age.
6) Enjoy the Stage Baby Is At
Some people love the newborn stage, and others hate. Crawling is something that so many parents dread, but to be honest, I’ve found it to be super fun. Even if the stage your child is in, isn’t totally wonderful, just remember — it will be over before you know it. To be honest, I have truly loved every stage during this first year, and I honestly think to myself on a regular basis, “How can this get even more fun?” And each time it really does.
It’s okay to be anxious about certain stages and milestones, but try not to wish away where your child is it. That stage is important for them, so try and enjoy it as much as you can. The good stages, and the less than pleasant stages, all eventually end. And before you know it, your baby is going off to college, and you might be wishing they were still a newborn, waking up every hour to eat.
7) Love Unconditionally
This kind of goes along with the “don’t compare” idea. Love your child no matter what. They may be the best baby in the world, or they could be super needy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you let them know what you love them. Even though a baby can’t talk or communicate with you like someone else, I truly believe they can feel if they are loved or not. I think that a baby is incredibly impressionable, and how they are treated that first year will probably affect them the rest of their life. I’m no child psychologist, but I remember hearing about babies in orphanages over in Romania. A friend of mine worked in one, and she said they weren’t supposed to hold the kids for very long, because they would get used to that, and crave it. How sad is that? There’s no such thing as giving your baby too many hugs or kisses.
8) Take the Good and the Bad
There have been many times where I have sworn to my husband that I’ll never have another child. And then the next day, I’ve changed my mind again. Not every moment is going to be perfect. Every child is unique, and comes with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. And as the parent, you’ll get to endure, and celebrate, each and every one of those. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, or even frustrated, with your child. But I promise, those moments do pass, and the good will most certainly outweigh the bad and make it all worth it. I’m not going to tell you to enjoy every moment. Believe me, I don’t think I could ever even attempt to enjoy those nights where my son would cry inconsolably. But just remember, the days may be long, but the years are short. And you’ll make it through (and maybe, just maybe, miss those sleepless nights.)
9) Have a Schedule
In my opinion, one of the best things you can do is get into a schedule early on. It makes the days flow easier, and life easier on everyone. When I was still pregnant, and scared to death about having a baby and not knowing what to do all day, my mom and sister assured me that we would fall into a schedule, and that would make things easier. I think I remember reading somewhere that babies and small children need to have schedules, because they know they have something to rely on. I so wish we had established a bedtime schedule earlier on, because it’s been harder getting one in to place now.
I think the most important thing is to try and get your baby on a good nap/sleep schedule…and stick to it! Even if people pressure you to skip a nap here and there, or put your baby to bed later, I don’t think it’s worth it. Then again, I’m kind of a nap-nazi. But I do think it helps not to confuse your baby, putting them down to nap at random times. Plus it’s easier to schedule things when you know when your baby is going to sleep and eat.
10) Enjoy Them Being a Baby
I’ve said this several times I’m sure, but they aren’t a baby for long. Well, in the sense that they are tiny and rely on you for everything — my Jack will always be my “baby.” But, soon, that baby will be a toddler, then in kindergarten, and then their having babies of their own! I don’t even want to think about that. But try and find ways to enjoy what your baby is doing, and your life with them. Get down on the ground and play with the toys. Read a book to them. Watch the excitement in their eyes as they go in a swing for the first time. I never realized how much joy I would have seeing my son make simple discoveries. And believe me, they discover so much during the first year. Babies are hard work, but those 12 months can be some of the most memorable ever.