Oh I know, toddlers can be little jerks. I have two 2-year-olds, and when they are both face down on the pavement screaming in protest over leaving their older brother’s baseball practice, there’s not much I can do but turn red in embarrassment and pretend they don’t belong to me. I can’t carry them both at the same time — they’re each over 30 lbs. — and while hauling off one kicking, yelling, fierce little toddler is possible, I can’t quickly pick up both of them, shove them in my car and pretend everything’s fine while everyone stares at me and wonders what the heck I did to ignite World War III at the T-ball field.
The toddler years are tough, even more so with twins. There was the dog’s food incident. The tree climbing incident. The chalk on the walls and floors, the stickers that are literally everywhere, all over my house, even stuck to the side of the dryer drum. There are the uneaten dinners and the thrown food, the milk all over the wall, the struggles to do things independently, the frustrated tantrums and the pee accidents (times two) as we try to potty train. The running away as I try to herd them to the car to get to preschool so I can go to work, and my son always giggling and saying, “Na na na na boo boo,” (where did he hear that?) as he climbs far into the way back of my car where I can’t reach him while I buckle in his twin sister.
They are my last baby (Suprise! Babies, I mean.) The. Last. There are no more hand-me-downs to save for any reason, other than to pass the more decent things on to friends. There are pieces of crib hanging out in my guest room waiting for storage, now that we have moved them into big kid beds. They don’t fit in the Tula I loved so much to wear, with their soft infant heads tucked under my chin. I no longer spend much time in the baby section of Target, only to grab pull-ups and go. All the cute websites I frequented for baby clothes no longer get (as much) of my money, now that they’ve outgrown bubbles and rompers. I’ve stopped reading articles about infants, and sleep training, and teething, and how to pick a car seat. I no longer daydream about baby names and nursery decor. And I am moving on, whether I want to or not, as much as I’m hanging on tight to those last seconds of babyhood through the ugly toddler years. Sure there are good things about this season. No diapers = yay. (TEN YEARS OF DIAPERS, PEOPLE.) We can eat out if needed. Traveling is easier. They can walk, and mostly communicate what they want. Mostly. We can really do things as a family. We aren’t trapped by a nap.
Every night when I read them books, I look at their fat, soft cheeks and sweet smiles, the still-tiny dimples on their hands and their wild, curly hair and I think, “Tomorrow you will be one day older, one day closer to 3, and you will be one day further away from being a baby.”
And my heart breaks, every single night.
Right now I am still wrapping their little hands around my finger when we walk into school, savoring how sweetly they fit against my hip when I pick them up, soaking in their funny, just talking phrases like “Hold you, Mama!” and “I lub you, Sissy.” I pet their heads while they sleep, bottoms still in the air, and hold them tight when they give me a death-grip hug around the neck. I cup their tiny faces in my hand while they still fit in my palm. I press their cheeks against mine and close my eyes and breathe in their sticky fruit gummy and milk smell. I stay with them longer as they drift off after books are done and the nightlight is turned on. I try to be more patient with them (and toddlers are the ultimate patience-testers), as they stumble up the stairs or try to get their words out or refuse to eat. I tickle them to hear their still baby giggles, the deep belly laughs only a small child makes, and hold them in my lap, warm and heavy against me, as they watch Masha & Bear, instead of making dinner like I should.
I know they’ll always be my “baby,” but that’s so far from being my baby. And my heart is sad that every day that my babies are one day older. It’s a sadness that creeps up from my stomach and leaves an ache in my heart and starts the tears in my eyes and would end up in the deep sobs only a mama can cry, if I’d let it.
So despite the rolls of holiday wrapping paper they unfurled all over my room while I cleaned poop off the swingset slide, the fact that the golf clubs and baseball bats (even the foam ones) are locked in the laundry room, and crayons, markers, and Play-Doh are hidden away until they reach middle school, and despite my baby girl drinking applesauce out of her shoe and my baby boy eating a tube of (fluoride-free) toothpaste, or that we read the same Thomas the Train book 17 times a day, or that they bounce up and down on their beds and pull all their clothes out of their dresser drawers when they’re supposed to be napping, and dump out whole bags of chips on the floor, and finger paint in their yogurt and climb in the toilet; and even though they lick sand, jump off the arms of the couch, put beads down the AC vents, feed the dog ice cream from the same spoon they’re using, rip the flaps off the lift-the-flap books, dump water out of the bathtub onto the floor, scale the book shelves, stand on the dining room table, and…
I am savoring every second of these toddlers, as long as I can.
Because these are my last babies. And my heart breaks a little every time I look at them, knowing each morning they wake up a little older, and not so much a baby.