The Significant Insignificant Moments of Year One as a Parent

I cracked open the baby book — purchased over a year ago, cute dog on the cover — just once during my child’s first year on Planet Earth. I wrote her full name on the cover page and the exact time she was born: 4:39 p.m., June 3rd. If I had the handwriting endurance to finish the rest, my fill-in-the-blank responses would look something like this:

Date of first tooth:
That night she screamed so loudly we were certain she saw a White Walker.

This is a White Walker.

This is a White Walker.

I was able to rationalize away most of my guilt for not completing the baby book. We kept her alive for a whole year and my husband and I didn’t murder each other (bonus). Then I remembered flipping through the pages of my own baby book and how special it made me feel that my mother documented some things about me.

So, instead of filling out the baby book’s pre-defined questions and fill-in-the-blanks for milestone dates, I made some lists with my own categories. In doing so, I learned something I hope I can internalize as the years go by and I’m fortunate enough to be this incredible child’s mother: Milestones are for memory keeping and photo snapping and scrapbooking, but the insignificant moments are where most of the joy lives. There are no blanks to fill in the baby book for those moments. No Pinterest boards. No easy-to-label albums like, “First Birthday.”

This lesson applies to everything in life, not just parenting. We live fast and blind and shackled to our calendars, milestone hopping the years away.The insignificant moments evaporate before we can reach for our iPhones or baby books or scrapbooks. If we don’t savor the insignificant moments, we’re missing out on the experience of being human.

Here are some of the significant insignificant moments from my first year as a parent.

Hazel, if you ever read this, here are the things you enjoy:

  • Looking at your hands

  • Squeezing through that space between the couch and the wall

  • Sucking on your bottom lip

  • Chewing on our iPhones

  • Chewing on remote controls

  • Chewing on restaurant tables

  • Chewing on the rug stopper (after flipping up the rug to access said rug stopper)

  • Finding whatever that thing is I dropped

  • Staring at the curtains in your bedroom

  • Opening the microwave

  • Closing the microwave

  • Banging on the AC vent

  • Removing books from the book basket

  • Kissing/licking your reflection in the mirror

  • Picking at the outlet protectors

  • Handing us things

  • Being chased down the hallway

  • Sleeping with your tush in the air

  • Removing the foam corner protectors from the furniture

  • Crawling away with a foam corner protector in your mouth, as if to eat your prey alone

  • Swaying to music with surprising rhythm

  • Rambling in Russian/German to yourself

  • Rambling in Russian/German to us directly

Your signature expression:

  • Eyebrow furrow coupled with intense stare

Favorite food:

  • Guac

You scream when:

  • You don’t get food on your exact timeline (Genetic.)

  • We try to steal your boogers

  • We make you wear clothes

  • We change your diaper

  • We wipe food off your face

  • Your feet touch grass

  • You can’t reach the clip in your hair because your arms are still out of proportion to your head size

You laugh when:

  • We yank on your leg while you crawl away

  • We pretend we’re going to chase you

  • We actually chase you

  • I stomp towards you like a giant

  • Dad hangs you upside down while you grab things off the ground (Our “human claw”)

  • We throw things at you

  • We smash pillows on your face

  • We make crazy mouth noises

  • We blow on your belly

  • I pretend to eat your hands (I actually do want to eat your hands and feet and thighs and cheeks and it’s weird to put that in writing.)

You lack:

  • Depth perception.

  • Patience. (Genetic.)

  • The ability to wear shoes.

I will never forget:

  • The smushy triangle shape of your lips while you sleep

  • How you wrap your arm around mine when I carry you on my hip

  • Making eye contact with you for the first time when they brought you around the curtain

  • The feeling of your head on my collarbone while you sleep

  • Cupping your cheeks in my hands when you look up at me after I catch you getting into something

  • When you give up the sleep fight with a deep exhale

  • When you reach for my face while drinking your bottle

  • How you crawl away, stop, and look back to see if I’m coming with you

  • The look you give me when I lean over the crib, kiss your face and tell you, “I love you.”

Best compliment from a stranger:

She gives an exceptional stink eye!
—  Woman from restaurant

Here are the things I was doing while you were sleeping instead of writing in your baby book:

  • Sleeping

  • Trying to sleep

  • Obsessing over how to shape you into a critical thinker who doesn’t give into peer pressure

  • Watching History Channel with your Dad

  • Checking on you

  • Burning my maternity underwear

  • Feeling guilty about not writing in your baby book

  • Exercising

  • Learning to accept my new body

  • Practicing being less self-critical because that shit is contagious and I don’t want you to get it

  • Writing

  • Figuring out if I’m using my short time on earth wisely

  • Faux cleaning

  • Making mental plans to organize your closet

  • Researching medical advice online when you have a weird symptom, like that day you had really bad breath (Was it the guac?)

  • Spiking my camomile calming tea with bourbon

  • Forgiving myself for not being a perfect parent

  • Looking at photos and videos of you because I miss you

Sweet child, every moment with you is significant. Happy First Birthday.