On Second Chances

It finally happened. I told myself (and everyone I know) that it would never happen. But it did, last Saturday, as I made my weekly rounds at my favorite discount store: I paused in the baby aisle, thought about having a second baby, and emitted a wistful sigh.

I hold my son responsible for this. He has attained the age and attitude that would make any first-time mother wish for a second chance. This one would be right, she might think. This one wouldn’t turn on me.

It doesn’t help that my best friend is newly pregnant — five whole weeks, to be exact. Over the past few weeks I have found myself imagining that I am the one carrying this golden opportunity, this bright beacon of hope in a world that has turned a shade darker in recent months. I’ve regaled myself with silent tales of this child’s magical powers, such as the ability to sit still for longer than 0.3 seconds and its amazing portability. I’ve daydreamed about this child’s charming characteristics, such as a propensity toward being easily entertained and an utter lack of interest in all things dangerous and expensive.

The daydreams, however, never last long, as they quickly evaporate in the hostile environment of my son’s screams. Screaming, in fact, is his latest achievement — adding to his repertoire of tantrum-throwing. I admit I admire his versatility. In just weeks, he has expanded his portfolio to include meal tantrums, t.v. tantrums and bathing tantrums in addition to the old stand-by, diaper-change tantrums. I eagerly await the unveiling of his next creation — the bedtime tantrum — from which I am presently spared.

Bedtime, oddly enough, is about the only thing that he and I agree on lately, and after spending an evening fighting him on every other issue, I am only too happy to oblige. Soft and squeaky-clean from his bath, he can hardly escape my arms fast enough to greet Scooter Dog and Mr. Knuckles The Pig, wrap his blanket around his head, and gaze at the fish swimming about in the battery-powered aquarium strapped to his crib. The crib is his happy place. It is mine, too.

We didn’t used to butt heads like archrivals. If I remember correctly, we used to be buddies. We went everywhere together, as he was once very easy to tote along — immobile and secure in his carrier/car seat. He never screamed for something on a shelf, because all he wanted was me, and maybe his pacifier. He never ran away from me, because he couldn’t run, period. And all that suited him just fine.

Of course, looking back on that time, he wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun, either. He was a tad on the lazy side — always just hanging around in his swing, or his bouncer, watching the world around him without much interest. His taste in food was rather dull — all that strained mess in various shades of brown and green. And he wasn’t nearly as much fun to take to the park. (I put him on a slide once and he just sat there, looking at me, as if to say, “I can’t even crawl, Mom, what gives?”)

Last night, I avoided confrontation by lowering my standards (i.e., caving in) and agreeing to push him for another few minutes on the swing. The shadows were getting deeper, it was nearly bedtime, and he had yet to have his bath. “What’s the big deal?” I asked him. “It’s not like you won’t be able to swing again tomorrow.”

I started to recall that feeling I got as a child — that angst that the sun was going down and the fun would have to stop and I would — ugh — have to go to bed. It seemed so tragic to end a perfectly good day, to bring a perfectly wonderful time to a close. Apparently, my son now experienced that same phenomena.

I wondered then, while pushing my son in his swing, if perhaps little kids know something that we don’t — that time is fleeting, and life moves quickly, regardless of what the grown-ups say. All their talk about “tomorrows” and “other times” — what do they know? Only after their babies become children does it dawn on them that time really does fly, and pretty doggone fast. Perhaps we possess that knowledge as children, and therefore wring the life out of every moment, because we know that, sure, there’s always tomorrow — but today will never come again.

So I pushed him for a few more minutes, and a few more after that. Then I picked up my son and carried him, kicking and screaming, into the house, smiling all the way. Because, sure, he’ll throw another fit tomorrow — but this could be the last one I get to enjoy today.