As I look around my house and see the Christmas tree, I am excited for Christmas this year with my son. He is almost 17 months and will no doubt be able to enjoy Christmas a little more this year. I tried to get him a few things that will have some longevity to them and allow his development to continue to flourish. He is bored with his singing toys, his rattles, his squeaky balls. Even some of the light-up devices and blocks are not as fun as they once were. I think about the puzzle under the tree, the musical frog rocker waiting to be wrapped in the attic, and the giant slide/rock-climbing wall device sitting in the garage waiting to be assembled. I know it will be such a joy to watch him unwrap these items and grow into them as he did the rattle, squeaky ball and push-car that yells, “Ka Chow!”
But somewhere in all this growing and developing, I’m realizing he is no longer my little baby. The swing that once doubled as a nap place is gone and upstairs; the pack and play no longer blocks the fire place to double as a holding cell for me to use the bathroom and him to stay “put”; and burp cloths — once enough for there to be a clean one on hand for every hour — are now collecting dust in a wicker basket under the coffee table. Where has my baby gone?
I know I complained and bitched and moaned a lot when my husband was on second shift. Yes, it was difficult and I had a lot of help from friends and family and God who listened to my prayers. We are now not just a weekend family but now one of routine in the morning, breakfasts together, dinners together, book readers and even a group/family kiss. Yes the latter is a bit gross and probably only something the three of us can enjoy, but when my baby watches me kiss my husband good bye in the morning and decides he wants to also tell us “bye” in his own slobbery way, I indulge the momentary grossness and love every second of it.
Two nights ago my husband chopped my son’s hair in a haphazard way that displeased me to say the least. Not one to ever really get angry, I some-what silently watched my infant transform right before my eyes. Knowing he now looked like a British rock star with a redneck mullet, I realized we would have to get his hair cut for real this weekend. I know it will be fine and he will hopefully look just as cute (minus some bangs my husband chopped off), but I can’t help but think this might be the last few days of baby-dom. I realize i sound like so many other annoying mothers who blog and put posts on Facebook that make people roll their eyes and fake vomit. Yes, I am one of those today. I am nostalgic and missing the days I complained about.
When my son was first born, I thought each day lasted at least 30+ hours. Breastfeeding around the clock makes you so aware of time and even five months later, I was still breastfeeding and thinking, “when will he grow up so we can do X or X.” But now, as we lay him to bed each night, he no longer wants to cuddle or snuggle or have me sing to him. He wants to read book after book and then screams and pulls my hair when it’s time to get in the crib. My little baby is gone.
But then in the mornings, as I wake him and he uses his sign language to tell me he wants to listen to his “fish” music (is that ironic or what!), I turn on his aquarium and we begin our routine. “Ox” he yells out as he knows it’s time to pick out socks. “Book” he says thinking it might be Saturday and we can read a book in our pajamas. I tell him to take “off” his shirt, and he points to the light switch, which we also turn “off” each day. He’s putting words and sounds together. Somehow, this is becoming the same level of connection I had when we snuggled, yet now we’re communicating. We walk down the stairs looking at the rows of family photos and he points to mommy and daddy and his favorite, a giant canvas of Baby C. He turns off the lights downstairs and signs “food,” not because he is hungry I’m guessing, but because he knows his Dad has breakfast waiting for him as soon as we turn the corner. He knows we eat before school and then we put on “oos” or shoes. He then shakes his hand to say he is all done and our family does our group kiss goodbye. It is our little morning routine, one that he has picked up quickly and is now narrating through sign language and monosyllabic abbreviations.
So as I look around the room and miss the swing and the newborn-sized diapers and even the sleepless nights, I accept that we are now in toddler-dom and I have a little person in my life rather than a little baby. Hopefully God will bless me with another child one day, but for now, I’ll try to enjoy each phase and not wish one away or hold on too tightly to the one we’re leaving.