There are a lot of words written about the wistful pain of saying goodbye to the baby years. It's so easy to wax poetic about that single damp dainty curl at creased neck, about tiny clutching starfish hands, and the smell? Ohhh, the smell of newborn baby - the mere memory of it makes me tear up. Babies are amazing. Those years are intense and we're immersed. Half drowning, half swimming, sleep deprived and constantly hungry, it's nonstop service - and we rise to the occasion, meeting every need and crooning over every sorrow. And I think it was partly the exquisiteness of the baby years that made me feel a certain trepidation over what was sure to come next.
Little legs stretched out. Appetites blossomed, babbling words became complex ideas expressed. They pushed me away in the most normal, natural way - like a skilled swimmer using strong legs to push away from the side of the pool. They came back to me. They made me laugh. They entered, and exited the awkward stage, emerging with more grace and poise than I could ever have imagined.
And maybe this transition is tempered in a way for me, because I do still have a little one in diapers who isn't talking about moving out, graduating college, falling in love or getting a credit card... Yet. But I feel like I was so deceived. I thought this phase of life was gonna be all sadness and melancholy and nostalgia. I thought the goodbyes to childhood would choke me and that my grief would steal my joy. Nothing could be further from the truth... It's amazing. That wild hearted faery princess twirling her dress around her skinny white legs, the one with sky blue eyes and hair as fine as dandelion fluff? She's still mine. Her hair is tamed - sometimes. She traded her velour Barbie dress for blue nursing student scrubs. But those ageless eyes will never change, and that fiery passionate heart didn't disappear, it only miraculously discovered both it's source and destination. It beats still, only what used to beat with questions and sometimes confusion, now beats with purpose and determination. It's breath taking. Her sisters and brothers follow close behind - just like they did when I had a flock of stair step tinies following me in years gone by. Now the stair steps are uneven as my second born grew taller than my first, and they no longer all trail behind, but instead some skip ahead or walk beside. My third and fourth born are taller than I am, and just this morning, my fifth grinned at me with a cock of her eyebrow, "back to back, mama?" There are piercings and hair dye. We listen to post secondary plans and make arrangements for graduations. We pay excruciating attention to both crushes and love songs. We've lived through acne and algebra. We've breathed a sigh of gratitude after no-injury fender-benders and broadened our music appreciation to include the taste of several eclectic teenagers. None of them stay little forever, and it's good and right - and even exciting... Yes, exciting... to experience this truth.
So, grow little ones.
Mama has learned not to be afraid.
After all these years, my first born is still teaching me. And as I snuggle my littlest one, tenderly trailing my fingers through his uncut tresses, breathing deep the fading scent of babyhood, I stretch my heart just a little more and lean in deep to her instruction.