It’s near. I feel the change. I can see it coming faster and faster. In some ways it reminds me of so many previous big life changes. Time has a way of going quicker towards the end. In college for example, the first few years the end seemed so far away and then suddenly I was a senior. It shouldn’t have felt like a surprise that I got to the end but I still found myself wondering how I got there so fast. It was bittersweet – the mix of “I did it” with “how can it really be over” and “what now?” jumbled in among the memories and regrets. All the good times I wish I could live again. All the things I wish I had done differently. One last get together for oldtimes sake and all the friends you said bye to and didn’t realize you wouldn’t see again. It sneaks up, the end. Likewise, when he was born, it seemed like the days that I could pick him up and hold him on my chest, in my arms, upon my hip would never end. There were days I pulled my hair in frustration because he wouldn’t let me put him down. It felt like an eternity since I had a moment to myself. Always under toe and always wanting “up, up, up.” I had our second child and the days went even faster. They felt so long in the moment but a blur on retrospect. Tired mornings. Tired nights. Always one child on my hip. Sometimes two. I longed for an arm for myself even knowing that one day I’d probably miss the dull aches that come from carrying two through a parking lot. And now the end is coming and I feel that the last time is so much nearer. We aren’t quite there but it’s senior year and more and more every day I’m so very aware that the change is on the horizon.
These days my lanky 4.5 year old has to wrap himself around me as I lift him to me. His legs fall past my knees unless I cradle him slightly and he has to work to hold them up for me to even carry him at all. His head lays awkwardly on my shoulder to get the same effect that came so easily this time last year. It seems like he can sense the end approaching as well. Lately he is asking to be lifted more and more. “Carry me” he asks. “Hold me.” His arms come up the same way as they did as a toddler but now they aren’t as sure. I’ve said “no” so many times. I see his face every time wondering if his request will be granted. Will I lift him? Will I tell him he’s a big boy and needs to walk? I have to stop myself sometimes from taking that path. Remind myself that these days are fleeting. I have noticed that lately on the rarer and rarer occasions when I pick him up he seems to take it in. He cuddles his face into my hair. He clings to me. I feel him needing these last few moments as my baby as much as I need them. Every time I hold him it feels like we are practicing our good-bye for this stage in life. I know that one day I will pick him up and realize that I can no longer carry his weight with any ease at all. One day I will pick him for the last time. One day I will put him down for the last time. One day he will stop asking, “up mommy.” One day I’ll be looking back wondering, trying to pinpoint when was the last time he ran into my arms and I lifted him to me without a second thought.
Lately there has been one life change after another showing me that this baby of mine is becoming a bona fide kid. Not long ago our trips to the playground gave me anxiety as I watched him try to finangle himself among the bigger faster kids. I found myself following closely, watching intently as he moved from the toddler slides to the larger structures. Only a few months ago he found himself stuck trying to climb an arching ladder, his arms and legs too short to make the climb, and as I heard his cries I ran to him, his mama savior to lift him down. But things change quickly. Now he’s running, climbing, jumping with ease. There are no rescue missions from mom. “I can do it” he tells me. And he’s right. And I love it. And I hate it. I’m being sidelined. The first of many times that he will tell me I need to back off and where he’s 100% right.
I’m sadly aware that the day that I wished for my arms to be lighter is almost here. I watch him tred into this new space in the same way that I watched him take those first steps. Excitment. Sadness. Happiness. Fears. All the new doors that he will be able to open. All the old doors he will shut behind him on the way. Those first steps were to me. These new steps are more and more away from me. It hurts my mama heart as much as it prides it. This little creature is mine and nothing will change that but as motherhood often goes, it is the paradoxal truth that my empty arms will be heavy in their lightness.
Me: Ok, baby.
Him: I’m not a baby.
Me: You’ll always be MY baby.
Him: Even when I’m married?