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Monday, August 3, 2015

My babies keep growing (and it's breaking my heart a little)

There is one inevitability in motherhood: our babies will leave us someday. We spend most of our time as mothers teaching, nurturing, and preparing our children for this reality, but the thought of it still haunts me as I watch my babies sleep at night. But honestly, what's the alternative? I want my children to embark upon their own journeys, armed with the love and knowledge I've passed along to them from infancy. I want them to be brave, to take risks, to suck the marrow from the bones. And they'll have to leave this nest to do so.

I still have lots of time. Loads of it. I see the years stretching before me almost endlessly; years of carpool and science projects and piano lessons. And there will be times in which I will feel like it will never end.

But then it will. And it breaks my heart.

I know what you're thinking. My kids are so young. My youngest is only two months old! And this is true. But last week I packed away her newborn clothes, pausing because I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. In the past, I stored them away for the next baby, but Lucy is my last. There will be no more babies. So I started a pile to give to my friend who is expecting her first, a girl, this fall. She and her husband are entering a phase that is ending for me. Not that I don't have years of mothering ahead of me, but no one will place a squalling newborn on my chest in the delivery room again. I will never again gaze into the eyes of my child for the first time.  And those newborn clothes will never be needed in our family again.  They belong to someone else.
Atticus at his Pre-K graduation

I can imagine that the bittersweet pill would be easier to swallow if my first baby weren't starting kindergarten in a few short weeks. Just like that, he's off to school. Just like that he'll drag his Star Wars backpack (which is about two sizes too big for him, but will likely be snug on his shoulders by next year) to and from his classroom loaded with letters and permission slips and homework he'll be thrilled to complete in those first weeks and then will become a chore by October. Just like that he'll make life-long friends and form lasting memories that will stay with him forever. Even as an adult, I remember nearly every detail of my first day of kindergarten. So it will be for Atticus. And while I remember that it was my father who dropped me off on the steps of that portable building that housed Mrs. Thompson's classroom, I remember the rest of that day as an experience completely separate from my parents. It was my first step towards independence, small though it was. It was the beginning of something greater, an adventure that led me to who I am today more than any experience that came before it. Just like that.

And so it will be for Atticus. So it will be for all my children.

And while it's heartbreaking to watch them grow so quickly, to see these years of infancy slip away before they've really begun, it's exciting, too. Here are these little people (PEOPLE) that I've created, becoming their own little selves and it's so freakin' beautiful I just want to soak it all in. I can't wait to see the adults they become. I can't wait to see what they deem to be the beginning of their lives. It won't be as squalling newborns placed on my chest; that was their beginning for me, but not for them. Their beginnings might be that first day of kindergarten or college or marriage. It might be their first day as parents. The key is that I give them the space, the love, the confidence to find their own beginnings.

It has nothing and everything to do with me.