My younger son is one of the gentlest, kindest, little mushes you’ll ever meet—and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. Strangers have stopped me on the street to comment on his giant, round, angelic eyes. He draws hearts on everything, and leaves us “I love you” notes around the house. He’s always the first to want to resolve a conflict, and he will never, ever hesitate to tell you that he loves you.
Naturally, he’s always been a big hugger, ever since he was tiny. Although he’s also a very active child—jumping around our house from the second he wakes up until the moment his head hits the pillow—he periodically takes time each day to hug and cuddle with me. I love it. He’s my second child, my last baby, and I savor all the cuddles and affection he will give me.
But this fall he turned 6, and I’ve noticed something. Yes, he’ll still run over to me for those daily hugs. But his hugs are quicker and jerkier than they used to be. His body doesn’t melt into mine as it used to. I feel him tensing up a little, his body itching to be free.
And he barely fits anymore. I remember when his whole self fit perfectly into my lap, the top of his head (oh, that delicious baby hair smell!) fitting right under my chin. Now his legs dangle all the way to the floor and he cranes his neck to look up at me, or tries to rest it in the crook of my elbow.
It’s awkward. But more than anything else, it breaks my heart right in two.
My baby isn’t a baby anymore.
Sure, he will always be my baby, and I will continue to baby him all I want, thankyouverymuch. Knowing his personality, he will always offer me love, lean on me for support and be my little buddy.
How could these needful, intense, beautiful small children be anything other than what they were then?
But the intense physicality of having young children—how their little bodies melt right into yours, how they are needful of hugs and carrying and closeness all the freaking time—those days are ending with him. I can feel it in my bones.
I’ve been a mom for over a decade, and I know I’m not having any more kids. Before I know it, I won’t be the mom of littles anymore—ever again. On the one hand, I’ve been waiting forever to have the freedom that older kids allow, but now that I’m here, it all feels so final and so profoundly sad.
When I was the mom of two little kids—kids who literally clung to my body 24/7—I desperately wanted a break. I get why I did. I still would today. But I truly had no idea how quickly it would all pass. Everyone told me it would. There was part of me that didn’t believe them. How could these needful, intense, beautiful small children be anything other than what they were then?
And yet, here I am, watching those years of tender closeness that only small children can give you slipping away, right before my eyes.
Mamas of littles, everyone is going to tell you to enjoy every moment. I know doing that can feel virtually impossible sometimes. So, do me a favor: For just a short moment today, take a good whiff of your child’s hair, cuddle them a little closer. Try to memorize the feel of their sweet weight against you … because trust me, it will all be gone before you know it.