The other day, I took a picture of my son’s baby face just because I wanted to remember it that way, just because I knew that it would change. And then it changed.
And the same thing is happening to my daughters. When did this one’s torso stretch itself so thin? When did her bones grow angular? When did that one’s legs out-lengthen her pants?
Though it sometimes stops me for a minute, I think I’m ready for this. Do I have a choice?
There are times when I miss them being babies; and then the youngest decides, one evening, to cough so hard he vomits his noodles all over himself and his crib. Bewildered by a fever and a second nightime bath, he rests his head on my shoulder, letting me rock him to sleep. He gives me a moment to remember rocking him to sleep, to remember rocking all of them to sleep. And so I don’t miss it anymore.
And even though my oldest can define the word tenement and enjoys discussing algebra at the dinner table, she still yells “Mommy!” and bursts through the playground gate, jumping into my arms, when I pick her up from school. I struggle with her fifty-three pounds, but walk a few steps, letting her hang. I can’t imagine she’ll do this much longer. But she still does it now.
And the middle one. Oh, the middle one. She knows she’s not a baby because her brother is, and she’s dying for homework like her sister, but know’s she’s not there yet, either. She makes me wait in the foyer while she walks into school “all by my own self,” but still asks me to sit by her bed and rub her back until she falls asleep each night.
The first time I read that Love You Forever book, I was a little creeped out by the illustrated image of the tiny mother cradling an adult son in her lap. But now I get it, I think. I stood outside church one time, swaying with my too-big son, hoping to get him to sleep long enough to last through the homily, and an older gentleman walked by. He leaned in close to me (so as not to wake the almost-sleeping giant) and said, “Don’t let your arms get tired. Mine’s thirty and I’m still holding him.”
And last weekend, I watched as a just-twenty-year-old stood in the kitchen, her mother pulling pieces of her daughter’s hair into a braid. And even though she had to stoop a few inches, the child hasn’t yet outgrown her mom.
We give them enough slack to almost let them go, but they stay tethered to their spools. Like little kites.