We are done. No more training wheels. A few teeth to lose, sure, but even the trucks and Disney princesses don’t really hold their interest anymore. Now we are onto baseball, Instagram, and nail polish. There is so much no one tells you about being a parent. How exhausted you’ll really be. How none of the things you think really matter actually do, how your kids will be just fine no matter where they go to school. That it never actually gets easier, just harder in different ways. And no one tells you about the profound sadness you feel when they really, truly start growing up. I feel like I think about this a lot, and it is because this is a profound reckoning and heart-shattering feeling that sometimes overwhelms me.
Yes, I am glad to be done with diapers and formula. Yes, I am glad to be done with sippy cups and daycare payments. Yes, I love watching them turn into real humans with thoughts and opinions and clever comments and brilliant flashes of humor. I love watching them learn and master a skill and I love watching them pursue their dreams. I love that they can brush their own teeth and wipe their own bottoms and wash their own hair and that they have friends whose parents I wasn’t friends with first. I love who they are.
At night, when my youngest ones, 6-year-old twins, are finally asleep after I’ve threatened them with no dessert to get them upstairs and in the bathtub, I stare at their faces. They still have the smooth soft cheeks of toddlers. They still have dimples. They still look like angels when they are sleeping. Yet their legs are long now under the covers. We read chapter books. I cannot pick them both up at the same time anymore. My third baby, my savor baby, the one I was going to enjoy every second of because it was going to be my last, turned into twins. And twins overwhelmed every ounce of me, as much as they were wanted and loved. And as hard as twins were and as much as we wanted them to get older so things would be easier, I hold desperately onto their babyhood even though they aren’t even close to being toddlers anymore. With my older two, I knew a third was in my plan, that our family didn’t feel complete, that there would be another baby. And then we had two. And our family was definitely complete. But I ache as I see babyhood slipping away. My mama heart wants to cry, “No, no STOP. Please stop.” I look at my 6-year-olds and think not yet. The older you get the faster you grow, and I can’t let you go, please, I just can’t.
Because I know how fast it goes. I know how fast they’ll go from 6 to 16. I know there is no turning back, that those days, those hard, overwhelming, exhausting but so sweet days, are gone forever. My oldest is almost 14. She went away for five weeks this summer for a program that I hope will help her become the professional she wants to be one day. And she’s beautiful and amazing, and I love seeing her work so hard for what she wants to do. But I look at my 6-year-olds and the last tiny shreds of babyhood, and I want to cry. There will be no more babies.
And this period of my life which has shaped me more profoundly than anything I have ever experienced, that has been filled with more love than I could ever imagine, that has filled my arms and my heart to overflowing, it is slipping away from me. Their heads will no longer fit under my chin. They will no longer want me to read On the Night You Were Born or Love You Forever. They will no longer want to hold my hand. Those days are fading away.
They will always be my babies. But it is so different from when they were my babies. And no one told me how sad I’d feel over that.