Now that Benjamin is in his Ergo or his umbrella stroller when we're out, now that he looks (apart from the absence of teeth) like an eight- or nine-month-old, strangers seem generally content to bless us or remark upon the cuteness of his cheeks. But when he was in his baby bucket stroller, one of the things people said to us most often was, "Enjoy this! It's all downhill from here."
It was really hard not to slap them.
For one thing, we were so sleep-deprived and frantic that it was a miracle we appeared in public at all. The idea that this hazy, half-drunken state of barely functional uprightness represented the apex of parenting joy was so thoroughly disheartening that a few times I came this close to bursting into tears. In more rational moments, I chalked up the substance of their comments to amnesia or inexperience: they either didn't remember what six weeks was like, or they'd had those babies who slept.
But what kind of asshole picks, among all the things in the universe to say to new parents, that they will never enjoy their child as much again? Even if it were true! It's as if upon hearing that you were heading off to college, people invariably told you that orientation was great, but classes and dorm life and research and independence? Garbage. What do you say in response? Um, thanks for the heads-up? I was often tempted to condole them on their sad, unhappy relationships with their children. You'd think that was presumptuous, but it's kind compared to telling someone she's facing a lifetime of misery.
I wish they could say what they really mean. Not "It's all downhill from here," but "He'll never be this tiny little creature again." Time only goes forward. Even if time moves you from sleeplessness and agonizing incompetence to something considerably more rested and happy and secure (which, thank heavens, it does), there's a kind of tragedy in not being able to visit, even for a moment, a stage of your child's life that will never come again.