We have two children in very different phases. My toddler son is in preschool, holds grown-up conversation, and has very specific likes and dislikes. The baby is still just an adorable ball of squish and snuggle. I love seeing how my older boy is forming his own opinions, practicing his own voice, asserting himself as a person. The baby is in an altogether different, but no less enjoyable stage of nonsense babbling, baby-smell, and all-day naps.
Having the little baby around reminds me of the early times with my older son. I remember things I’d nearly forgotten- the way he'd start kicking his legs as soon as it was time for a diaper change, the silly little noises he'd make when he was happy, the funny toothless grin he reserved just for his dad. While I care for his brother, I tell the toddler, “You were just like this when you were a baby,” sharing stories that are entirely new to him, and reminding myself of them in the process.
And then I also see the gaps in my memory. I don’t remember how or when he did this specific thing. I didn't think to record this or that, didn't pause to catch a quick photo. I guess he must have done that, because all babies do, but I can't remember it.
I start to realize that all of those well-meaning friends who warned, "It all goes so fast!" were telling the truth. It went so fast with my toddler boy, I hardly recollect those newborn days of baby chub and gummy smiles. I almost forget how much we’ve been through together already.
The realization makes me want to savor the time I have with my infant son. My four year old is a living reminder that this short newborn moment will pass so quickly, and he’ll soon resist my hugs, soon be too big to nap on my chest. And so, I relish the fleeting bits of this newborn stage.
While the baby reminds me of just how big the toddler has grown, the toddler reminds me of how quickly this baby will grow. The presence of the little one urges me to relish the memories of his brother. The toddler presses me to enjoy the quickly passing baby phase.
My boys, in both of their ages, are so dear. I love them both, distinctly and independently. And at the same time, they each allow me to love the other better.
Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.