It is 10:45 on a Friday morning and I’m in the kitchen cutting a peach into slices. Tears slip down my cheeks and I take a deep breath. A few minutes earlier I heard a play conversation from the other room where my newly 3-year-old is playing with Lego guys.
“I really love you. I do!”
“Thanks! You’re the best!”
“You’re the best too!”
This mimics an exchange that we have countless times each day and I can’t help but feel smiley and gooey as he plays it out in his Lego family, which is comprised of several ninja. As I head to the kitchen I hear him make one of his guys ask “What are we doing today?” To which another replies, “We’re going to school!” followed by an excited gasp.
And so, as I cut the peach’s white and rosey flesh into an orange plastic bowl, tears well up in my eyes and brim over. They are tears of sadness and happiness; of confusion and uncertainty; of excitement and regret. In an hour and a half I will take my very last baby to his first day of preschool. He will stay for one hour and fifteen minutes, if he even lets me leave the room. It is barely a dent in our day, but it is an enormous event. While he will always, always be my baby, he is NOT a baby any longer. He has a place to go where I don’t belong. I am torn between anticipation for this next part of life and mourning for the life that will no longer exist.
Today I take my son to his first day of school and a bridge will be crossed that we can never go back over. Today we embark on an adventure that will have us each taking solo steps. It will be hard and it will be fun and it will change us. I worry that he is not ready, but more than that, as I tear up again, I’m trying to tell myself that I’m ready.
I know it’s such an old cliche, but it is honestly so true. It seems as if, before you know it, children are grown before your very eyes. Yes, in some ways the past nearly 6 and a half years have been long, but in others it seems as if Brady was just my little baby. I think that I will forever see him as my chubby, little toddler playing with Thomas trains and digging in the sandbox. On Sunday we went to buy him a new bike. He had far outgrown his original one and we’re banking on the fact that Spring will one day come and he will be able to ride again.
He picked out the one he wanted and the mechanics fixed the seat and filled the tires and polished the rims as he watched. When they handed it to him, I asked him to pose with it for a picture to send his grandparents. The boy I saw in front of me was just so…BIG! Instead of my baby, there was this child, so sure of himself and in control. (Part of it was that he was wearing jeans. He refuses them and rarely wears them and somehow it always makes him seem like more of kid.)
Where did this child come from?
For the most part, as a parent, I really enjoy watching my children grow. I think I tend to celebrate their milestones more than mourn the loss of their younger selves. But sometimes, it tugs my heart with a mixture of pride, love, sadness and wonder to see just how far they’ve come.
How did he go from this?
That night I crawled into bed with Brady after he was asleep and curled up beside him. I stroked his cheek and looked at his sleeping profile and could see so clearly the baby that he once was, and to me, always will be. I wondered how much longer I will even be able to check on him at night without waking him or finding him still awake, reading in bed, and I decided to just lay there a moment longer while I still have the time.
To be honest, I remember very little about that book other than that my mom was always sad for poor Christopher Robin because he spent all his time in the nursery with his nanny and rarely saw his parents.
But anyway, today we are six my Brady and me. He has reached school-age or middle childhood or whatever title you’d like to give it. It is a delineating mark used by many to show that a child has entered that time of being a real kid. Recently we were walking home from school with a friend of his. I was up ahead with Declan and Brady and his friend trailed behind talking and laughing. It struck me just how big he seemed, how much he has become himself. There are things about him that remind me he is still small and immature, but in many ways he is now very much in charge of what goes on in his life.
I had just over six years of adult life under my belt when my baby boy arrived. I was 22 years old when I graduated from college, moved to the city, and got my first real job. Six years later I was married and welcoming my first child. Like most people I had only a vague idea of what I was getting into. I was bewildered and thrown off guard and thrust into a brand new life that I had no idea how to adapt to.
And so we learned together. As he learned to sit up and crawl and walk, I learned how to help him just enough and to stop trying to anticipate each next move. As he learned his alphabet and colors, I learned to talk to new people and make playdates. He learned how to entertain himself and I learned how to fit in work and play and cooking and laundry and sometimes still have fun.
In the last six years my smooshy baby boy has managed to become a self-assured, focused, funny, passionate, and seriously smart child. In the last six years I have lost myself and rebuilt myself again many times. I have learned to let go of the parts I no longer need and to embrace most of the things I have become. I have realized that my family will always be a work in progress and that that is a beautiful thing.
When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
– A. A. Milne
Brady made me a card at school today.
Translation: Dear Mom, I love you. I wish we could play together.
I didn’t understand it at first and he corrected me. I thought he was saying that when we play together, he wins. Much different message. We spend tons of time together for sure, but since school started I guess we don’t really play together very much anymore. I can’t really even explain how it made me feel. I was touched that he wants to play with me and that he found this way to tell me, but sad that he feels like he’s not getting enough of my attention. I asked him if he was told to make a letter to me or if he wanted to. He said that he chose to make it because he wanted to tell me we should play together.
I’m pretty sure it’s at least partly because his brother has been SO time consuming lately. I can’t take my eyes off of him for a second or he’s ripping every card out of my wallet, undressing himself and peeing on the floor, or climbing the bookshelves like a monkey. We’ve also got a jammed schedule these days with school, sports, religion class, and homework. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for playing.
We have already begun to fix this. We broke out the playdough and made Ninjago guys today and I think we’re scheduled for a spinjitsu battle tomorrow. I can’t believe we’ve gotten to the days of using the written word to communicate. In no time I’m sure we’ll be texting each other. I’m going to try really hard to slow down a bit and play while there’s still time.
Snuggling with Declan on the couch when he’s sleepy after his nap.
I love cuddles from both my boys. At nearly 6 years old, Brady doesn’t fit so neatly on my lap anymore, so when Declan sleepily burrows into my chest as he wakes up after nap, I try to soak it in. These days are sadly numbered.