There are certain “firsts” that all parents remember vividly. The first time the baby smiles at you, the first time they roll over, and my personal favorite, the first time my kids decided to use the potty instead of diapers. As you may know, most preschools only accept 3 year olds who are potty trained. I’m still a little sore that my eldest, Hugh, waited until the DAY BEFORE preschool started to decide he was done with diapers. Damn kid! He’s never going to live that one down! haha!
I always got excited about the firsts that happened beyond babyhood. Yes, it is a thrill the first time your baby takes his own little steps, but let me tell you, it’s just as exciting the first time his bat makes contact with a T-Ball. I went berserk the first time each of children rode a bike with no training wheels. I was bursting with pride when my kids passed the “deep end” test at the pool. These are the unsung moments of parenthood that never seem to get mentioned in baby books.
Other “firsts” are more bittersweet. The first time a baby refuses the breast. The first eye roll. The first time your kid doesn’t want affection in public. Maybe I should call them “lasts”. I remember the circumstances of the last time I nursed each of my kids, even though I knew it was winding down. For Hugh, it was immediately after coming back from my friend Marlo’s wedding in the Bahamas. I woke him up, nursed him, and the next day he wanted no more. Jack was at a neighborhood playdate at Stephanie’s across the street. I nursed him, put him to sleep under an end table in the corner, and that was that.
Jack was my cuddle monster. Both of my kids were, but being the youngest, he was so into Mommy and I guess I remember it better. Praying at the kneeler at Mass, a little head would try to wiggle its way between the pew and the crook of my elbow. Then a slightly larger head would do the same on the other side. Here was a vivid reminder of the very things I prayed for, and about! Sitting on the couch with a blanket an a novel, along would come Jack wanting in, and wanting me to hold just him. I got kisses constantly, looks of loving adoration, hugs and more hugs. Did I mention the cuddles???
Then he turned eight.
Literally, the day Jack turned eight, the hugs and kisses and longing looks stopped. No longer did he need or want to be cuddled. No longer did he want to spend quiet time with me, demanding all my attention. He stopped trying to shove his way into my praying hands at church. Like an English schoolboy who stops wearing shorts and graduates to “big boy pants”, Jack embraced all that the transition from little boy had to offer. He could venture beyond my line of sight because he had the confidence to find his way back. He could do more things, climb higher trees, ride larger bikes, jump off higher rocks into the lake because he no longer needed “Mommy”, he only wanted “Mom.” Yes, of course I still get the occasional kiss and hug, but it’s not the same.
I know this is completely normal behavior, and I do embrace it. God rest her soul, but I had a mother who always wanted puppies to remain puppies and babies to remain babies. I find it much easier than my mom did to let my kids go through their normal developmental milestones – even the annoying ones. A 13 year old putting maturity on and off like a too big sweater is especially fun. Note the sarcasm. But still, I expect it, I know what’s happening, and I know it has to happen. I do not want my kids to feel like they are disappointing me somehow by growing up. Nor do I want them straining from the shackles of eternal babyhood and feel the need to rebel or grow up too fast. Like I did. I want them to go through what they need to go through to become the men God wants them to be. It’s all part of the beautiful process.
Still, to be “Mommy” one more time. I think that’s a longing most women have, despite ourselves.