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Sherri Richards, Published February 17 2009

Mom wonders where her baby went

Parents inevitably adopt a catchphrase, something they say over and over, like “When I was your age …,” “How many times have I told you …” or the ever popular “Don’t make me come back there.”

I’m sure I’ll be repeating those in a few years. It’s parental destiny.

But lately, I’ve been uttering one simple phrase a lot: “Where’d you go?”

I say it aloud to myself moments after setting down my increasingly mobile daughter. For someone who can’t walk yet, she sure gets around. She’d win the gold medal in speed crawling.

When I look away, she disappears, scampering under the table, around the corner or down the hall. She has an adventerous spirit and she’s persistent – even defiant – when she wants to go somewhere she shouldn’t.

I always find her quickly, before she’s done too much damage to her surroundings or herself. But as I chase after her, I’m struck by the double-meaning of the phrase.

Where did my baby, that little 8-pound bundle, go? And where did this 18-pound near-toddler come from?

While I’ve watched her grow every day and achieve each milestone, it’s hard to believe she’s grown so quickly. It’s almost like the sitcoms where the baby is replaced the next season by a precocious 3- or 4-year-old, like Andy on “Family Ties” or Chrissy on “Growing Pains.”

Except in this case, no actor has replaced my baby girl. She’s just a bigger, more active version of herself.

After Eve was born, nearly every mom who visited me said the same thing, their own catchphrase, if you will. “You forget how tiny they are.”

I didn’t understand this at all. After two hours of pushing, she didn’t seem that tiny to me.

Eleven months later, I totally get it. I find myself exclaiming the same thing when I meet a brand-new baby.

While I enjoyed those newborn moments – the sweet cooing, finger grasps and the tiny bundle that fits in the crook of one arm – I wouldn’t trade them. They don’t compare to her saying “mama,” giving me slobbery kisses and climbing onto my lap.

So I’ll gladly continue the pursuit of the disappearing daughter.

And one day, if she turns into a defiant teenager who sneaks out of the house, I’ll be repeating “Where’d you go?” for a whole new reason.

Sherri Richards is mother of an 11-month-old daughter and an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at moms.inforum.com