Not Yet

Michael Graham Cracker smallEvery January there’s a day or two like this: shorts weather in the middle of frozen weeks. Days when we open the windows and let the humidity in, sniffing the air and saying, “Oh right, that’s what that feels like.” In the afternoon, I put shoes on the kids and we trek outside to scooters and tricycles and Nicholas’ new adventure, training wheels.

Michael adores being outside, and he’s been deprived of it by cold weather. Now, he’s in heaven. He comes to me with graham cracker crumbs clinging to his mouth, and I open my arms and he hurtles into them breathing vanilla and honey on me. He stays only for a moment; there are chalk drawings to explore, and trucks to push, balls to throw and mayhem to cause.

But he comes running back every minute or two to drop his head on my shoulder from behind for a couple of seconds before running off again. A miniature hug from a miniature boy who, really, is no longer a baby.

It surprises no one when a child grows, except his mother. That’s what they’re supposed to do. In the past I’ve embraced every change; there was always another child planned, no need to weep over what was lost, because there are sure to be more coming down the line. This time, it’s different. I’m so ready to be done with diapers and cribs and high chairs and having to carry a heavy child whose weight causes my shoulders to lock up (a daily battle I’ve fought for the last eight years with stretches, massages and Tiger Balm, but never managed to win). But I love babies, and it’s bittersweet to see Michael careening headlong out of babyhood. My heart whispers, Not yet.

Michael crouchTomorrow he’ll be fourteen months. Alex and Nicholas weaned at fourteen months. Julianna lasted a couple more because she did everything late, including feed herself. But the time is near. I’ve led the weaning every other time, ready to be done with the extra time sucker at bedtime and first thing in the morning–the last two nursings to go. This time, I’m hanging on tight. Two nights ago, when I came home from my novel critique group, the kids were already in bed. I knew Michael didn’t really need to nurse, and I debated letting it go. But the whisper came again: not yet.

I’m holding on, drawing every drop of sweetness out of the experience, even as he proves ten times a day that toddlerhood is at hand. There’s the interest in cars, and the fact that he rolls around on the floor shrieking when he’s crossed. Things like that.

Ready or not, here it comes. And it’ll be beautiful, I know; Alex, long and lean and up to my shoulder, building pinewood derby cars and chasing his little siblings around to make them laugh, shows me that.

But it won’t be babyhood anymore. So I’ll hold on as long as he lets me.