Shhh. Listen … There! Did you hear that? That snarky mumbling? They’re doing it again. Taunting me. Shaming me. Making judgmental “tsk, tsk” sounds in my direction.
Yes, I know they’re only books. Just glossy hardcover journals. Just pretty pastel diaries with a soft-focus cover photo of some baby’s delicious feet. The books look so tidy and innocuous, with their sweet ribbon embellishments.
But we know better, don’t we?
We moms know that baby books — those keepsake compendiums where we’re supposed to inventory our kids’ cute sayings and developmental milestones for posterity — do not exist to bring joy to families. They exist to bring revenue to the gift industry. And to drive me self-loathingly, inferiority-complexedly deranged. (Ooh, there’s a nice line for the baby book. Lemme jot that one down.)
Sure, there was a time — when my babies napped often and I was too exhausted to stand up and go make a sandwich — when I wrote diligently, dutifully in those pretty books: “Why we chose your name … ,” “Our first days together … ,” “Your first smile … .”
But then a full year went by without opening the books again, and I felt remiss. How would I ever remember the name of the song that played on that music box as I rocked them to sleep? How would I recall the adorable way they said “Gumpus” instead of “Grandpa”? And how could I just let those cherished memories fade?
I moved the books to my bedside, where I could scribble in them before bed. Could … but didn’t. Another year passed. Oy, the guilt. I moved them to the kitchen counter, where I proceeded to ignore them for another year. Now I vacillate between feeling sick with remorse, and thinking, “You know, those boys are old enough now. If they want to remember this stuff, they can start their own damn diaries.”
The worst part is I have no excuse. Sure, I’m busy, but I find time to browse online shoe stores for boots I can’t afford; surely I could find time to document the names of my children’s first best friends, and the color of the cupcakes at their third-birthday parties.
But I came up with some excuses I’m rather pleased with:
1. Like photo albums (anyone remember those?), these books call for only happy memories of good times. The prompts never ask, “How I felt about my episiotomy …” or “The first time you bit me on purpose …” and the journalist in me is uncomfortable with the inherent bias in such lopsided reporting.
2. When my kids became conscious of the books, and started trying to make quips clever enough to earn book space (“That was pretty great, right? Are you gonna put it in the book? No? Okay, listen to this one …), it lost some magic.
3. We don’t recognize the precious while it’s happening. Have you ever been at a restaurant and noticed the cutest, happiest toddler in the world sitting at the next table — and his mom looks suicidal? That’s because we’re cruelly blind to cuteness while we’re sitting right beside it. And wiping its perennially oozing nose. And asking it to stop crumbling the complimentary Saltines into our purse.
4. The truth is I don’t want to rush to the book every time my boys stun, amuse, or enchant me, which is daily. Because writing it down means admitting that this fascinating, entertaining chunk of our lives is only temporary. It means coming to grips with the fact that our current reality will ultimately exist only in ink, and nowhere else. And that makes me sad.
5. I can’t even hear what’s going on in my family’s life because of the accusatory racket those books are making in the kitchen. If they would just shut up, I’d be the perfect mother. I swear.