I cried last night. Not the cry-a-single-tear kind, but like a full-on UGLY cry. My face contorted. My husband looked at me like I had lost my marbles. When I tried to explain myself to him, all that came out was drool. My aforementioned husband went to bed at 8:30 p.m. saying he was tired.
He wasn’t tired.
It all started when I was reading my 21-month-old daughter Goodnight Moon last night. You see, she has gotten into a habit of asking for Goodnight Moon every night before bed. So every night I sit in the glider with her in my lap, and we read.
“Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.”
About here in the book, I looked down at my daughter. She was hugging her stuffed puppy with one arm and sucking her thumb, and I felt an incredible wave of gratitude come over me. How lucky am I to have babies to love?
“Goodnight kittens. And goodnight mittens.”
Two nights ago, we had an Über driver take us home from dinner. He asked about our kids and when I told him their ages, he looked at me through the rearview mirror and said, “What I wouldn’t give to have my kids be toddlers again.”
I have heard this countless times, along with remarks such as: “You will miss this,” “Babies don’t keep,” or “Enjoy every minute because they will be going off to college before you know it.” I have always nodded and smiled politely, but it never really sank in.
For some reason (partially PMS), it sank in last night. The gratitude I felt quickly turned into fear and dread of this stage of life ending.
“Goodnight little house. And goodnight mouse.”
With my firstborn twins, I had a hard time bonding. I stuck to a strict schedule, and my boys spent more time on their play mat than in my arms. Because they were premature, I couldn’t wait for them to gain a pound or to move up in clothing size. Shortly after I put away their baby bottles, I found out I was pregnant again. So I really did not experience the sadness of saying goodbye to the baby stage.
Knowing Grey is my last baby, the reality of saying “goodnight” to each stage is palpable. I can taste it. I have put away her bottles. She will never take formula again. I will never have to burp her again. Her crib is at the lowest setting, and I will never lower another crib. In the near future, I know I will never have to change a diaper again. Right now, she needs me. She cries for me to hold her. In the distant future, however, I know there will come a day when she chooses friends over me. Ultimately, I know all my babies will leave home.
I dread that day.
“Goodnight comb. And goodnight brush.”
In that moment, the reality of the fact that my kids will never be as small as they are right now took my breath away. Grey will be a bit taller when the sun rises tomorrow. My boys will be a bit bigger when they wake us up in the morning. I relish hearing little boy footsteps run from their room to mine. My heart swells when I open my daughter’s door in the morning and get greeted with a smile and hearing, “Mommy!” There will be a day where my halls fall silent. There will come a day when I can no longer pick up my kids. There will inevitably be a day where my babies will no longer be babies.
“Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.”
I stood up from the glider with my daughter and gave her a big hug. I felt one little arm clinch my neck, while the other hand twirled my hair. I could not help but wonder when she will stop that little finger twirl, when she will stop sucking her thumb (taking references for orthodontists), or when she will stop asking me to read to her.
So for now, while my kids are still small, I will wipe as many dirty hands as I can. While my kids still need me, I will put as many bandages on invisible boo-boos as possible. For as long as they will still let me, I will smother my kids with kisses and hugs. And while I still can, I will read Goodnight Moon as many times as possible.