“It’s the last one,” I try to explain to my almost three-year-old son.
“The last one?” I can hear in his inflection that his little brain is trying to stretch to understand.
“Yes, Bunny. It’s the last paci. When this one is gone, you won’t have any more.”
I mentally bargain with myself about driving to Walmart to purchase another round of pacifiers for my handsome little man.
“He only uses them at bedtime. And nap time. And when he’s really upset. Or when he won’t shut up. Or when I want to see him smile . . .”
“His teeth aren’t that wonky.”
“He won’t carry it with him to college. Amirite?”
“Let the kid enjoy his life! Everybody’s got a vice.”
“The dentist said he doesn’t have to quit until he’s three, which means I’ve got two full months until I have to rip his paci-loving heart out.”
Because, honestly, he loves a paci. He greets them like an old friend when he finds one and giggles innocently when we lift the couch and his favorite blue one is rediscovered after a long absence. He’s never had a lovey or a favorite stuffed animal, but his pacis bring him true joy, and what kind of monster mom willingly breaks a kid’s heart? I know that when the time comes for that last paci to cross the rainbow bridge into paci heaven he will adjust and move on with life, but the truth is, I’m the one who’s not really ready.
You see, before recently, I’ve never been the kind of mom that looked at my two week old and captioned an Instagram post with “Time, slow down!” or “Please stop growing!” I’ve never bemoaned the rapid growth of my children because I always expected some new phase would come behind it and be just as exciting and special as their babyhood. Kids were meant to grow up and I was honestly just so thankful we were together and making memories that it never occurred to me that eventually, there would be a last paci . . . that the little artifacts that proved how much they have needed me and relied on me these last few years would start to disappear. You catch your littles running outside without you having to help them with their shoes or you realize you can’t order the cute, smocked bubbles anymore because they’re potty training, and that would certainly be a disaster if they couldn’t get “unhooked” when Mother Nature called.
My husband told me once when I let myself get sad about another fleeting milestone that, “You can’t smush them back down like marshmallows.” (Poetic, right?) At the time, I was furious that he minimized my aching momma heart, but it was so true. The days that are gone are gone, and the march toward their first boyfriend or girlfriend, driving a car, graduating college, first jobs, is a straight line right through my heart. You either get on board or get tortured, and lately, I’m just tortured. As Knox’s crib is turned into a big boy bed and Presley’s desire to spend more time with friends than her boring old mom creep in, out go all the baby necessities. It’s a changing of the guard as bottles are replaced with soccer balls and the diaper bag gets lighter and lighter as their independence grows at a blinding speed. I’m getting whiplash keeping up with the how fast they’re learning and how quickly they’re leaving behind the days where I have had to do literally everything for them.
But you know what replaces those emptier moments of their independence? Conversation. Like full conversations where I don’t have to nod and agree even though I have no idea what the bananas they’re talking about. Conversations where I can subtly imbue strong morals and gently nudge them in the way they should love those around them. Also, conversations about what’s going on in their little hearts and minds that open the door for a life of security and stability and trust. Oh, how I long for those conversations! Not so much the ones about penises, which both my children seem to constantly be asking about lately, but the ones about their lives and what makes them tick.
Their personalities really start to shine when they start to float further out on their own and make their own decisions. Those decisions may be insisting on unicorn socks and three headbands, but watching them flex their little imagination muscles is so gratifying. I’m in awe of how much has been packed into their tiny brains over the last several years that is now just streaming out in a beautiful chorus of hobbies, likes, dislikes, opinions, friendships, and convictions. It’s the first hard glimpse at the fact that they have their own lives to live outside of my own hopes and wishes for them. They will have dreams and goals and desires of their own, and I just have to be the most loving springboard for their individuality that I can be.
Because that’s all we really are — the foundation. They’ll build their own walls as their interests grow, as they choose their friends and inner circle, and as they outgrow the baby clothes and beds and pacis. What they want out of their “home” and their life will be something only they can architect and bring to life. But, without the foundation, they can’t build the life they want. They can’t go off and chase dreams and heights and a beautiful existence without the firm foundation of a mommy’s love from the very beginning.
I’ll be the foundation for my kids any day. I’ll sit behind the scenes and I’ll be strong when they need me. I’ll hold them together and be a constant all the days of their lives. I will not, however, take the last paci away, because even though I’m excited to watch them build their lives, I will always love the pouring of the foundation we’ve been doing these last few years.