Last night I watched my 4-year-old son, BoyWonder, playing with a friend, building block towers and gleefully knocking them down, as boys are wont to do. The whole time they played, BoyWonder chattered about space--how we live on Earth, how the sun is really far away, how even if you take a jet pack you still can't get to the sun, how we can only live on Earth and not on Jupiter or any of the other planets. He even made reference to the story of Icharus, saying something about making wings and flying too close to the sun and having the wings melt.
And that was the moment I realized: My God, I don't have any babies anymore.
I have three children, ages 12, 8, and 4. Everyone else on Earth, of course, would see those numbers and say, "Of course you don't have any babies, silly woman." But that realization took my by surprise, and I'm having kind of a hard time swallowing it.
I'm a baby lover. For the majority of the past twelve years, I've eaten, drunk, and slept babies. I always thought of my three-year-olds as still on the edge of babyhood. Then I'd get pregnant, my three-year-olds would get shifted to preschooler status, and I'd have another baby to prepare for. Baby-building, baby-bearing, and baby-raising has been my business for more than a decade.
But babies don't make reference to Jupiter or Icharus. My babies are gone. Long gone.
And in their place are these three amazing, wildly different, fascinating PEOPLE. Real, honest-to-goodness people with their own thoughts, feelings, opinions, preferences, talents, interests, and capacities. It's weird and wonderful to watch them unfold.
BoyWonder's fascination with space is his first educational obsession. I remember reaching this point with my girls. It's so cool. So fun to see him assimilate information, ask interesting questions, and start to piece together his place in the universe.
Babies don't try to figure out their place in the universe. I'm can't put my finger on exactly when it happened, but my babies are truly gone.
And you know what? Though I'm a little sad about that fact, I'm glad I can look back on the baby stage without regret. I'm glad I didn't spend a ton of money on a nursery, or designer baby clothes, or baby enrichment classes. I'm glad I held my babies every chance I got, whether they were sleeping or awake, crying or giggling. I'm glad I didn't rush the end of our breastfeeding relationship. I'm glad I let them sleep with me when they wanted to, that we didn't push them hard to sleep on their own before they were ready. I'm glad I was able to be there for all of their "firsts." I'm glad I extracted every last ounce of joy and wonder out of the baby years.
The only thing I wish I had done differently was not worry so much. I wish I hadn't wasted time worrying about their sleep, or potty-training, or whether they had enough "tummy time." Maybe the worrying is inevitable when you shoulder such an immense responsibility. Maybe the worry is a part of of the process. Who knows. All I know is that anything that took time and energy away from enjoying their babyhood seems like a waste in hindsight.
So now that I'm experienced in this area, my sage advice to those with babies is: Revel in it. Drink in that baby smell, play with their tiny toes, feel the softness of their skin. Hold them, hold them, hold them. Try not to worry so much. Let them be your babies into their toddler years--they're littler than you think. The days (and nights) are long, but the years are short, and one day you'll turn around and they'll be too big to hold.
My babies are gone, but I'm so thankful that I held them, and snuggled them, and stroked their soft little heads as much as I could when I had the chance.
Bye bye, babies. Catch you again on the grandparent round. :)
Me and my last "baby." (Sniff)
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