At 7:41 pm on a Saturday, I was watching my baby entertain himself in his activity gym. He went from kicking at a musical light-up toy to pulling down overhanging toys and gnawing on them. His first tooth had very recently breached the gum line, and he was discovering he could use it to clamp onto things more strongly than before.
It occurred to me that the only agenda item left for the day was to put him to sleep in the next twenty minutes. What a strange feeling, to have just this one small to-do item while the sun was still up, and nothing after it set. This time two years ago, I might have been getting ready to board a train for a party in the city and not return home for five to fifteen hours. A couple years before that, I went through a months-long phase of being out every single night, when plans had to be entered into my busy calendar weeks in advance.
I look back on those times and have trouble believing that was my own life. Like a clichéd elderly person, I now shake my head and marvel at the stamina of youth. My 26-year-old self would have found it inconceivable and laughable that, at 30, I would be spending my prime weekend time with a baby—my baby. Hell, even my 28-year-old self, who was at least in a serious relationship, would have been skeptical.
It now feels like ages since I’ve been able to stay out and have fun without worrying about the possible repercussions on a tiny human being. In the past three weeks, we attended two weddings, one with the baby and one without. We left the first one early because we didn’t want to push too late past his bedtime, and the second because we didn’t want to keep the babysitter too long. Both nights, I really, really wanted to stay out longer. I wanted to chat with more friends, hit the dance floor, enjoy some cake and more wine. But then the deviations from our bedtime routine disrupted our baby’s ability to sleep through the night. He still hasn’t recovered, and I feel as if I am being punished for trying to have a social life.
For the most part, though, I don’t regret this lifestyle upheaval. I don’t have too much of that dreaded Fear Of Missing Out. I’ve been fortunate to seize many a day in my twenties, and gotten a lot of that itch out of my system. After a while, it’s only natural to outgrow certain scenes. You get tired of the “crazy” nights you can’t remember, the crowds, the hangovers, the swings in mood and appetite, the foggy and interminable stumble home with your dried-up contact lenses after crashing on a friend’s couch for the night.
This is my next big adventure for the rest of my life. After six months, we’ve already observed so much growth and change in our baby. Every day, I experience a moment of disbelief that we created this whole other human ourselves, that I nourished—am still nourishing—him with my own body. Most of my FOMO now is around milestones: that his first crawl, first (real) word, and so on might take place at daycare rather than at home with us. Even that fear has diminished lately, too. It’s not realistic to expect to be present for every hypothetical moment we designate as special. Instead, what we can control is what we choose to mark as a special moment as it’s happening in front of us.