As my youngest child is getting set to promote from 8th grade this week, it’s time to reminisce. This essay is an old and treasured favorite about watching my baby grow up:
It’s funny the tricks that Time can play on you. I swear it was just yesterday that I was handing off a wailing infant to my mother so I could finally sit down and eat. And I would bet that a careful examination of my closet might still yield a blouse or two bearing the sweet smells of all my babies.
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Impossibly, my last child is now a preschooler—despite having done all I can do to keep him as my baby. We still snuggle on the couch. I coddle and kiss him, cuddle and love him. And I never resist the urge to wrap him up in my arms when he makes that nighttime trek to our warm bed.
Of course, he’s been more than happy to have his daddy hoist him onto his shoulders for a better view and very willing to take his ice cream scoops first, as his older siblings wait. Yes, I would say my baby has been pretty content with all the doting that’s been lovingly spooned to him. And, up until the other day, I was convinced our devotion was mutual.
As it turns out, he’s been indulging me—sitting back and biding his time and easing me gently into the big boy years, waiting for just the right moment to break it to me that my baby isn’t a baby anymore.
One afternoon, an aging bag of bread inspired a walk to a nearby pond. The area is a beautiful, gated refuge for all sorts of nature’s treasures, including fish and turtles. We crumble the bread in our hands and then toss teeny bite-sized morsels to all the ducks flapping and waddling in our direction. An occasional bird or two flutters in and pecks at some nibbles. So, we sprinkle more—here and there. We walk; they follow. Before we know it, we’ve attracted a gaggle of hungry critters.
But, this day, an unexpected visitor came sidling up for a bite. A huge, squawking goose muscled his way through the crowd, jutting and strutting towards us, shrieking and demanding some lunch.
Before I knew it, this goose had me on my heels, backing up and tossing bread in his direction just to appease him. But, he continued to advance, swooping up the bread in his beak and then nipping at my fingers and screaming for more!
A quick, knowing glance between us had my boy scrambling for our backpacks and water bottles. While I fended off the goose, he gathered our things, ran to the entrance and held the gate open for me. “Come on, Mom! I’ve got you, Mom! ” he shouted.
I continued to back my way up to the gate, and even though this creature continued to pursue me, my son stood his ground and waited until I was safe on the outside before slamming and latching the gate shut. He smiled and gave me a high five.
I was astonished. This little boy of mine didn’t cry and reach up for the safety of my arms when danger approached. Instead, he made certain that we both made it out of there—together.
So, it appears my baby has been sitting on a little secret. And it was at that moment—that precious moment of discovery where talents are uncovered and character is born—that I glimpsed the real measure of his growth. All the rest has been mere child’s play.