I was putting my eldest to bed the other night, and while giggling over his ridiculous sense of humour (fart jokes, and ‘Guess What Chicken Butt’ feature heavily in his stand up comedy set right now), I was struck with the absolute heartbreaking realization that this was the last night I would tuck my 4 year old into bed.
My little guy turned 5 this week, and although he is ready for ‘Big Boy’ status and all it entails, Mama is feeling all the feels right now. I want to grab the clock and wrestle it into submission, to turn back the hands and make it pause in this moment where he stays little forever. I can’t bear the thought of him being another year older, another year more removed from the bundle of squalling magic he was when I first held him in my arms.
Then he called me a Stinky Butt Face, and reminded me of the time he asked me to take a photo of his butthole so he could check he wiped all the way, and I’m looking for the Fast Forward button so I can get the heck out of this stage of parenting RIGHT NOW.
Kids have an amazing ability to do that. To take you from a soppy mess of nostalgia into being one eyeroll away from seeing the underside of your amygdala. They make me want to hold onto their childhood with both hands and then drop it just as quickly (since it’s probably sticky) and pray for them to grow up faster. It’s a constant tug of war back and forth.
The days are long, but the years are short.
No truer words have been spoken. That phrase helped me immensely when I first became a parent. Parenting is exhausting in the day to day, but in the long term is more rewarding and soul-expanding than you can ever conceptualize. I think that’s what hit me so hard this week.
I can remember when my son was first born, and all of the anxiety, stress and fear that came with that, as well as the overwhelming sense of love. I didn’t just have my heart fill with affection when I saw my boy in that delivery room; my heart filled and overflowed and burst at the seams until I was leaking love all over everything and everyone. I was a goopy, dribbling puddle of a Mama. It was more painful than the delivery itself, realizing how utterly besotted I was going to be with this little creature for the rest of my life. It was like my heart was no longer inside my own body, but was laying there, new born pink and cradled in a spotted blanket.
I can relate to the Grinch, going through the medically impossible but no doubt painful experience of having his heart expanding by 3 sizes in one day.
My son’s birthday isn’t just his day to celebrate. It’s not just about the Paw Patrol Pinata, the cake, the treat bags, which friends he wants to invite. This day has more significance to me than it does to him, I think.
It was the day I became a mother.
It started with him, and me, sitting in that hospital bed, both of us butt naked and crying and wrapped in starchy medical-grade blankets, and me leaking love all over him as it sank in with a clarity that hadn’t quite hit me throughout the pregnancy. I was a mother, bonafide and recognized by the world, and we would forever share that day as the start of something amazing. His life started that day, but so did mine.
So it’s only natural that I get a little teary eyed, tucking the blankets under his chin this week, remembering 5 years ago when my husband and I sat waiting to start a brand new life together. His life, to be precise, and ours as parents.
“Tomorrow, you’ll wake up to 5 years old,” I whispered to him with a smile. I folded his blankey the way he liked, so he could rest his soft cheek against it on his pillow as he looked up at me.
“Yea, I’ll be 5, then I’ll be 6, and 7, and..”
I cut him off there, since he would likely have regaled me with his ability to count to 200 if I let him.
“This is the last night I’ll tuck you in as a 4 year old. 5 years ago, Mommy and Daddy were waiting for you to be born,” I told him sagely, and he looked perplexed.
“I was in your belly, right?”
I agreed; tonight wasn’t the night I was going to dabble in that much bigger discussion about the difference between a uterus and a stomach.
“Did I go with you to the hospital in your belly?” he asked curiously, rubbing the edge of his blankey between his fingers, the edge totally raw and frayed from the habit he’s had since the start.
“Yes, you went everywhere with me. And now you’re in my heart, so we will always be together still even when we’re apart,” I smiled, feeling those tears welling up and the love starting to slop all over both of us in this hushed, sweet moment in time. The world was paused and for a moment in that quiet room, lit only by a soft nightlight, I wanted to sit and admire his perfect face, to comb his soft hair and count the sprinkling of freckles on his nose all night long.
Then he asked: “Did I poop and fart and PEE in your belly too?” and laughed like a crazed loon.
Children are precious, and the world’s best reality check.
After that, it was a little easier to tell him goodnight and remind myself, he’s got a lot of growing up to do, so I’ve got time to treasure plenty more moments. Hopefully with less poop and fart jokes.