If any of you saw me driving back from Burlington the other day, crying so hard I could barely drive, let me explain… if I can.
I’ve never really been a “baby” person. Of course, if you handed me your newborn baby in the hospital, I would issue a well-rehearsed “Awww,” coo at your little bundle of joy, and truly appreciate the wonder and miracle of life. And now that I have my own bundle of joy, I am much more likely to even get a little teary eyed at realizing how that screaming, pooping baby can quickly grow into a real, little person with real thoughts, ideas, and a sense of humor.
But all in all, I’m happy to give your baby back to you, to walk out of the delivery room holding hands with my two-year-old, and leave that baby-world behind.
I’m over it.
I’m pretty sure this is all about my need for acceptance from my child. I need to know that I’m doing right by her as a parent. I must know that she finds me funny, that she loves me, that she really needs me on an emotional level. And there just aren’t enough cues from a crying baby to really determine that.
I loved my beautiful baby girl, from the moment I first knew she existed, but the hugs, snuggles, and ‘I love you’s from her as a toddler make me feel complete as a mom, appreciated, loved. They’re real hints that I’m raising my child to be kind, loving, and respectful.
I even love when she asserts herself, like this morning when she asked my husband, Mark, if she could bring a whistle in the car to play with on the way to day care.
I chimed in as I made a sandwich at the counter, “Mark, you better have her leave it here. She blows that whistle as loud as she possibly can, and you’ll have to listen to it all the way to day care.” Mark reached for his coat, as I threw the sandwich into a plastic baggie.
Then, behind us, I heard a loud, angry, “Hey!”
We turned around to see our very upset toddler, standing tall, with both hands on her hips, staring straight up at me. She said sternly, “That is NOT very nice.”
Oops, and suddenly I realize that she is old enough to be very aware of mine and Mark’s side conversations.
I also can’t ignore the fact that, when I put her to bed at night, her feet reach the opposite end of her crib.
My parents are coming in two weeks, so I’ve been cleaning, organizing, and sorting. I added “toddler bed” to my to-do list. I already have a twin-size bed in her room, where I slept when she was a baby, that’s now stacked with boxes for storage. I planned to move her to that bed with a safety rail. I headed into Burlington to buy one.
On the way home, E fell asleep in the back seat. While I drove, I imagined rearranging her room, putting the twin bed where her crib is now, and I thought about what I could do with her crib. The most logical thing would be to take it apart and tuck the pieces beneath the twin bed.
As my mind slowly disassembled the crib, I felt this overwhelming surge of emotion. It came on so quickly, I couldn’t contain it. I tried not to wake my daughter, as I started crying, sobbing, and I didn’t stop until I pulled in my driveway 20 minutes later.
I tried to come to terms with why I was crying.
Maybe it was the finality of it. Maybe it was knowing that, if we had another baby someday, we’d have to reassemble that crib. My child has gone through so many developmental stages. So many times I’ve stopped and said, “Wow,” and really accepted that my child is growing up — first steps, first words, first time she made a sarcastic joke. Why does this step feel so significant?
Yesterday, she curled up in my arms and said, “Can I be your baby?” She’s struggling with the transition, too. Even though she’s already 3-feet tall, and it looks like I’m cradling a 5-year-old, I told her, “Yes, you can always be my baby.” I treasured that moment, cradling her in my arms, smiling at each other.
This week, we’ll transition to the toddler bed… ready or not.
What has been your favorite developmental age? Do you love cradling a baby more or spending time with your toddler or preschooler? Were any transitional moments particularly difficult?