Every now and again, one of those memes or viral posts sentimentalizing the baby years comes floating through my social media newsfeeds. You know the ones….
“You’ll miss those baby years one day, Momma.”
“The days are long but the years are short.”
“My baby just left for college so let me tell you how many hours I’ve spent pouring over her baby pictures.”
“Your first breath took my breath away.”
“I’d give anything for one more snuggle or one more chance to rock him to sleep.”
And it’s not that I don’t fully understand and appreciate the feeling there. Because I do.
It’s just that those things were not AT ALL helpful when my toddler was scaling the cart at Walmart and then punching me in the face as I physically carried him out of the store.
I am absolutely not going to miss my son punching me, Y’all.
The baby and toddler years were incredibly difficult for me. Dr. Band worked six days a week and an average of 70-90 hours in those six days. I was doing the entire thing mostly on my own for four very long years.
Breakfast, naps, diaper changes, flu, tantrums, story time at Chick-fil-a, parks, hand, foot, and mouth disease, teething, books, all me.
I had a two-year-old who still needed my attention even though I often fell asleep on the playroom floor because the newborn ate every 90 minutes for the first six months of his life. Daytime and nighttime. My daughter would say, “Momma, don’t lay down. Please don’t lay down.”
I saw an article the other day saying pediatricians are now allowing solid foods as early as four months and I wanted to drop my computer in a wood chipper.
(Mine refused to allow it until six months.)
(I want my two months of sleep back.)
The toddler had sensory issues I did not at all understand but I knew her screaming bloody murder for eight solid hours after she scraped her knee was likely not normal. By about hour six, I was literally laughing that laugh people do as they’re being escorted into the padded cell in Lifetime movies.
Both of them were wildly strong-willed and ready to do battle with me at any moment.
Unfortunately, my son was crazy athletic and totally fearless which did not go well with strong-willed.
I’ve called the poison control hotline only once in my entire life and that was after he’d scaled the kitchen cabinets, retrieved my prescription allergy meds, opened the child-proof cap (HA!), and eaten heaven only knows how many. “He’s probably fine but just watch him and if he gets drowsy, head to the ER.”
He was two.
At four, she screamed at me over wearing a coat in the winter because IT FEELS WEIRD ON MY NECK.
At three, he ran out the front door screaming at me I’M GONNA GO LIVE SOMEWHERE ELSE.
It is nothing but a flippin’ miracle the three of us survived.
So no, I do not miss those years.
Maybe someday I will. Maybe when they’re teenagers and getting into things far more dangerous than allergy meds and rolling their eyes at me because I’m the weird one.
But so far, each of the post-baby/toddler years has gotten better than the one before.
So. Much. Better.
My son turned six this week. Since he’s the baby, he’s been “the baby” his entire life. My daughter stopped being a baby before he was even born because she spoke in complete sentences. “Oh, dear. Oh, dear. The chicken fell.” If she’d been wearing pearls, she would have been clutching them.
The thought of me carrying her anywhere at age five was absolutely preposterous. The thought of me not carrying my son to bed every night at age five was also absolutely preposterous.
I now fully understand how the baby of the family remains the baby of the family.
Mothers enable the behavior.
We’re not doing it on purpose. It’s just that he’s the last one (100%) (unless we adopt) and if he wants to sit in my lap, then the answer will be yes until he gets married. If he wants me to bring him his milk in exchange for a kiss on the cheek, then I’m gonna get that milk for him.
It’s not deliberately extending the babyhood as much as it is treasuring the sweetness of these years following the hardness of his true baby years.
But a six-year-old is for sure not a baby anymore.
All those sleepless nights eventually turned into (mostly) delightful days.
My son is joyful and eager and determined and loving and generous.
My daughter is kind, sassy, sensitive, smart, intuitive, creative, and, as she’s been reminding me lately, still in need of her own lap snuggles and kisses.
I adore watching them play, schooling them in UNO, hearing them giggle as they swim, and even answering their bazillion questions all the live long day. (Questions that today included, “Momma, what does God look like?” and “Momma, did I know Sister in heaven?”) They stay up later in the summer, eat more food, make more crafts that can never, ever, ever be thrown away or they will surely die. We swim and watch American Ninja Warrior, snuggle and read our library books before bed.
And most every night, I fall asleep thinking, These are the best days.
These are the moments, when my son helps the lifeguard put the floats back in the chest or my daughter wants to read to me instead of the other way around, these moments take my breath away.
These days are short and I pray the years are long.
These miraculous, ordinary, mundane days fill my heart to overflowing. They are the memories I will be pouring over when they leave my nest to begin building their own lives.
These are the days I will miss most.
At least so far.