One more time!, my three-year-old nephew exclaimed ebulliently after the nth time on the merry-go-round. We had been there for the last twenty minutes, engulfed in his enthusiasm, waving at him and cheering him on each time he reappeared before our eyes. It was a stupendous sunny afternoon; scorching under the blazing sun, and cradled by a cool breeze under the trees. After months caged in winter, the stark comeback of spring time encapsulated in our toddler’s glittering joy. We had nowhere else to go after all, loafing in the shades was the plan all along. Another round, then, was impossible to resist. Alright, as his father bought an additional stash of tickets.
Ever since I became an aunt –– and godmother –– almost four years ago now, the very notion of growth took on a whole new meaning for me. I had been around babies and children in the past. Coming from a typical Filipino clan, practically all the members of my huge family set off to, how shall I put it, work on their offspring pretty early on – before I even hit puberty. I was an eleven year-old Auntie. However, all my first cousins lived on other continents, so the witnessing part of their children growing up was rather restricted and sporadic. It was only in 2014 that someone from my direct family brought new life into the world. I still recall the day my sister announced to me that she was pregnant. And still completely in the unknown, I was already in love.
Yohan Angelo was born on August 5th 2014 — and even if I live three hours away from him, I have followed him from up close since the first minute. I do not want to miss a thing. I may always have my misgivings on how technology affects our modern-day society; but being able to stay updated with photos on a daily basis via WhatsApp or making a video call that stretches for hours without spending an excruciating amount of money is really something I cannot thank the tech geniuses enough for making it possible.
I will take every waking opportunity to visit. I do – and I have established that if I wait longer than three weeks to see my nephew in flesh again, it will absolutely astonish me how much he has already grown. Indeed, the last years were synonymous to change, continuous change. For my sister and her husband. For my family. For me. Thanks to Yohan. The thing is, it was not only his big baby steps that we toasted to, such as turning on the stomach on his own or being capable of sitting without any assistance, his first time crawling, crawling fast, taking the first step, the first correct step, uttering the first word, his first comprehensible sentence. Those were positively fascinating triumphs of course; but reality is, I recognized that even the most basic factors such as height, weight, the features of the face –– even the hair; only three weeks and it was almost like hugging a different (minuscule) human being. De facto, when it comes to new life, growth is simply gargantuan, more importantly, it all happens at such a fast pace. It is cliche to say that children grow up so fast, but one still gets surprised when they do. I assure that I am. The physical aspect dazzles me, notwithstanding, it is only but a fraction of how much I profoundly enjoy pursuing his mental, emotional and intellectual development even more. How a character is made. Now he is an accomplished speaker. He is bursting with emotions: expressing happiness, sadness, fear, stupefaction, anger, jealousy or love so candidly — sometimes portraying all of the above within the same day. We are exposing him to everything that will benefit his learning curve, child-friendly naturally, and he is testing his likes and dislikes. From his taste in food to his book preference to making his first friends. He is a suction pad to his environment: everything is raw, his reactions instant. In the end, I grasp that he is discovering his own character at the same rate I am discovering his.
Though Yohan’s growing up phase is far... further... furthest from being over, my family was blessed enough to welcome the birth of his baby sister six months ago. What I went through – and am still going through – with Yohan is not only happening once more with the arrival of our latest cutest sunshine Malaya Solène, but having a (not so) older point of reference makes this constant evolution in our daily lives believably consequential. Yohan was this tiny not long ago. And I know — and appreciate that, in the most enigmatic way, it is only a matter of little time til Malaya will also blurt out One more time! on the carousel. When babies enter our lives, they disrupt everything. They change everything. They make us feel every second. One can only be so lucky. Let me have these few incredible years experiencing physical, mental, emotional and intellectual growth from this close.
There is a photo I take with my nephew every couple of months that has become, so to speak, prototypical of us: standing side by side, holding hands, looking at each other. Same posture, new photograph. If babies epitomize noticeable change, each time we pose that way; I, too, am reminded that I grow through change as much as Yohan does. Sure, we grown-ups stop adding centimeters after a certain age. We actually work hard to alter (or keep) the number of kilograms between takes. We might also be at that stage when we aspire to cover up the maturity our faces endure. But in times when it seems that our hair is the only thing that is growing; it is crucial to remember how baby steps are, quite literally, gargantuan. It applies to newborns, and it honestly does to us in adulthood as well. We go with time. We also advance. We still progress. We, too, can change. The well, as long as we live, is infinite; and ultimately, there will always be room for surprises and stepping stones. The question is whether we can let ourselves feel like children do, wonderstruck when we go for an nth round on the merry-go-round of existence. They might be the ones looking up to us, but oftentimes, children make the best teachers in life. As it goes for baby Malaya and not-such-a-baby-anymore Yohan, growth lies in living every day as if it were our first; not our last.