Well, it's official. I no longer have any "babies" in my house. My youngest, my baby, turned 4 this morning at 2:35am, and now she is a little girl, not a toddler, and definitely not a baby. And what a little girl she is. Confident, loving, bossy, vivacious and full of energy. Creative, funny, and very clear on what she wants.
She, of course, is thrilled to be four years old. It's about time, she says. But oh, my, as I sit here, watching the garbage truck coming to haul away the toddler bed we put at the curb this weekend, my heart is aching. No more cribs, no toddler beds. No little things. No high chairs, no potty chairs. There are no children in this house that use little things any more. She has a big bed (I'll download photos of the big bed later, along with others from her big day). She is an independent pottier. She dressed herself, and buckles herself in her car seat.
I remember longing for the day that I could say, "Everyone get in the car", and they did. When I could say, "Get on your shoes and coats", and they did. And that day is here. And I am more sad that I could have imagined.
Since the end of March, 4 of my seven children have had birthdays. I haven't had time to adjust to any of these new ages, but you will find them reflected in the sidebar now, in the "about me" section. When I began this blog, my baby was seven months old. I look back at the archives and am amazed at how my life has changed since then. I had been having babies regularly for 10 years at that point. While I was adding more children, my life was the same. While I had new people to love and care for, the tasks and activities were very recognizable and familiar to me.
Now, not so much. No babies. 3 teens (okay, one of the top three is 12, but you know, close enough). Not a chubby leg to be seen (except mine *snort*). Thank God there are still small enough children around here that I get a good supply of genuine hugs and kisses. But I see the writing on the wall. Even my second youngest isn't an enthusiastic kisser any more. There aren't even that many baby teeth left in this house.
I hate feeling this morose on a joyous birthday. I can't help it though. It's all going so quickly, and so much of my time is spent doing needed activities that distract me and exhaust me, and make my time with my family less in quantity, and quality. I mourn all the times I said "no" to my children when they asked me to read a book, because I had laundry to do, or dinner to cook, or the house to pick up, or weeds to pull. And yet, if I didn't do these things, we would be living in a hovel. I know I show my family love by caring for them and our home. It's just that the memories of all the laundry and shopping I have done do not warm my heart nearly as much as the memories of being with my babies.
I can still remember my oldest son, at three years old, sitting on my lap, and giving my spontaneous hugs, his little arms wrapping all the way around my neck, his cheek right next to mine. He still gives my hugs, but he is much taller than me now, and he stoops down to hug me, and he is careful with his hugs. The exuberant tight hugs are long gone with him. And my next daughter is 13, and she now gives delicate little hugs. Her sweet silly ways are settling down into more mature and adult behaviors. But I sure remember her 3 year old self, silly, uninhibited and so very gleeful. I won't go on through the list of all seven children and the things I remember about them, as that could get pretty dull to a non-parent, but I will share one common memory of all of them.
With the first baby I was completely caught off guard, and then with each successive baby I eagerly anticipated this moment. It usually happened at between two and three months old. I would be up in the wee hours of the morning, nursing the hungry baby. I usually nursed the babies in bed, but occasionally I would get up and sit in a chair while I nursed them. I wear glasses, with a pretty strong corrections, and would not wear my glasses while night nursing. So, there I am, sleepy, in dim light, everything a little fuzzy without my glasses, but looking at my baby, contentedly nursing away. Then the baby's eyes would open, and meet mine, and a look of delight would cross the baby's face, and a smile, almost involuntary, would erupt, a smile so big that milk would drip out of the mouth. That look would melt me and delight me, and literally feed my soul.
That look. That is the thing that I miss in my big children. They have all gone and grown up, and rightly so, but I am the same mom here. Eagerly looking into their faces, and willing them to know how much I love them. It is good, and right that the bigger kids spend more time looking away now. I know this. And I still have plenty of hugs and kisses around here, but it is slipping away. It is the greatest paradox of my life; watching these children grow up, and pull away, and knowing that by doing so, I am doing my job well. And it is breaking my heart. (photo of my first look at my now four year old)