20/20 Hindsight

Welcome Spring!  After a long and crazy Rochester winter it is always such a treat to see the flowers bloom and the lilac bushes emerge in Highland Park.  The promise of new life is the happy hallmark of spring.  At Legacy Pediatrics, we have been truly blessed with the birth of many new babies that have joined our Legacy family in the last month or so. Dear families, please know that it is our greatest honor to care for your children and accompany you on this amazing journey that is parenthood.

Everyone will tell you how quickly it goes; how the days are long but the weeks are fast…I know that you have heard all that.  I do hope that in this high-tech world however, you can take some time to unplug and enjoy the little moments that make up those steps on the journey.  Resist the urge to Google” infant development “and hold that baby on your chest and feel him breath.  Don’t worry if your cousin’s child who is the same age has been walking since 9 months and your child is not…I promise you it will all come out OK.

In that spirit, I would love to share with you my most favorite article about being a parent.  It is written by a very talented author, Elinor Lipman.  Her 11th novel, On Turpentine Lane, was published in February, if you want to check it out.  With her approval, I present to you:

With 20/20 Hindsight

By Elinor Lipman

Recently my publisher asked me to update my “about the author” paragraph for some promotional purpose.  Instead of ending with the usual “She and her husband live in Massachusetts and have one child,” I added, “their son, Benjamin, who turned out great.”  I sat back, smiling.  It seemed the right tribute at the right time, as Ben grinned at me from a new graduation photo.

That’s where I sit now, on this side of my child’s first 22 years, all of which play in the most delightfully nostalgic fashion.  Things that once felt worrisome and burdensome now appear as footnotes in The Doters’ Guide to Ben. 

The biggest travail that we’ve reduced to a fond memory is the fact that Ben didn’t sleep through the night until he was 6 years old.  It could have been worse; he might have carried on and cried inconsolably, but all he needed was the sight of me, a pat, a blanket retrieved.  Still, how did we know he’d ever reform?  Plus, we couldn’t ignore the public relations factor:  The question on everyone’s lips, beginning soon after his birth, was “Does he sleep through the night yet?”

“Not quite,” I answered-for the next 72 months.

As he neared his first birthday, every passerby was a child development expert: “Walking yet?” they’d ask.  “Our pediatrician says they either walk or talk,” I’d say, turning to my happy stroller passenger to prompt a sentence containing both a subject and a verb.

What we didn’t know at 1 year -or at 6 or 12-was that everything would eventually work itself out.  A partial list of early parental concerns and their outcomes include:

Then: Bad sleeper.  Now: Age 22 years and 10 months, sleeps through anything, naps anytime, anyplace, on any surface.  Then: Crawled late, stood late, cruised late, walked at 17 1/2 months.  Now: Walks, drives, skis black diamonds.  Then: Watched too much TV, played too much Nintendo.   2004:  Graduates from an Ivy League college.  Then: Suffered acute anxiety when I left with anyone but mother, father, grandparents.  2004: Moves 2,000 miles across the country, whistling all the way.  Then: Shy.  Now: Exceeds his 500 minutes per month cell phone plan.  Then: Addicted to breastmilk, followed by cow’s milk, chocolate milk and juice not from concentrate, which is to say: teeth at risk; blamed myself for not promoting water as most delicious beverage.  To this day: Not one cavity.  Then: Not interested in toilet training.  (I not fwee yet,” he would protest when we broached the subject.)  Today: Bathroom issues limited to wet towels on the floor.

One of the great joys of the grown-up child is seeing how the essential person was always present.  Baby versions of talents, interests, and personality traits come to lose in fascinating ways.  True then and true now:  Ben had a keen interest in food, in menus, in dining out.  Nothing bothered him that couldn’t be cured by eating.  Years passed.  The only demerits levied against him in high school were meted out for leaving campus to get sushi.    Every article he wrote for his college newspaper was a restaurant review.

I’m not reminding you in grandparent like fashion that because your little ones grow up in the blink of an eye you should cherish every moment.  You’ve hear that.  The point I’m trying to make is that there is so much to look forward to-not just the tuition-free, post-orthodontic, babysitterless future but also the company you keep:  your grown-up child.  My friends with small children have asked me, “What’s it like when the hugging and kissing gets shrugged away? Don’t you miss the baby?”

Yes, we do.  My husband frequently gazes at baby pictures and says, “My boy was cute, wasn’t he?”

But then the big boy calls, and the rosy glow changes direction to the here and now.  Lovely surprises will await you:  A big strapping guy!  A witty friend! A licensed driver! A voter! A tech-support hotline!  An advisor, a guide, a conscience.

A pride and joy.