Happy birthday, my sweet boy!
How are you two? Until recently, I still thought of you as a baby. But then I’d see an actual baby at daycare or the grocery store, snuggled in blankets in an infant seat, and I’d realize you haven’t been a baby for quite a while. You are a little boy now.
A few weeks ago, I was running water for your bedtime bath. Your sister was already in the tub, and I was sitting on the toilet lid while your dad got you ready in your room. Suddenly, you came careening around the corner, naked as can be, a proud smile on your face. “Hi, Mommy,” you said as you sidled up to the tub and started to climb in. I held my hands against your sides, but you didn’t need much help. “I do it,” you said.
Something tugged on my heart in that moment, and I found myself thinking – please slow down. Please, time, stop.
This wish caught me off guard, because the truth is, I’ve never really been a “slow down” kind of mom. The baby days were not always easy for me, and having your sister and you close in age didn’t make them easier. Someone always needed a fresh diaper or milk or dry clothes. Someone was always teething or sick. Someone was always waking frequently during the night. Someone was always having or about to have a meltdown (sometimes it was me).
Don’t get me wrong, there were many, many wonderful, magical moments too. But I never really found myself relating to friends who’d say, “don’t you just wish they’d stay babies forever?” No, I didn’t. I hit my stride as a mother when your sister started to get a little older. I loved being able to actually talk with her, to cook with her, to hike with her. I thought to myself, in a year or two, once they’re both a little older, we’ll be able to do so much more! I wasn’t exactly wishing time away, but I looked into the future with excitement.
But now that it’s happening, I find myself wanting to hold on for a bit longer. A few days ago, I stood in your room, pulling shirts that were getting too short for your round belly out of your dresser, folding them neatly to pack away – the navy blue one with airplanes, the orange monkey shirt with gray sleeves. These were favorites, worn many times, but now you won’t wear them again. Suddenly, I wavered, snatching the monkey shirt back from the “pack away” pile. He can still wear this, I thought.
But no, you can’t. Not unless we want to try to start a new toddler crop top trend. I held the shirt to my face. It was clean, but smelled the way your cheeks smell after a bath. I reluctantly put the shirt back on the pile.
Your baby days are over and so are mine. And it is wonderful and exciting but also a little sad. When your sister turned two, you were two months old, barely able to hold your head up, still nursing around the clock. I was getting to do it all again and I didn’t dwell on the fact that she was growing up. But you completed our family, and as we pass each milestone now, I know I won’t be back here again.
It’s the paradox of motherhood. In the thick of it, a tough day can seem to last a week, the promise of bedtime forever away. I frequently find myself wanting to hurry things along – like when you decide one day that you can put your own socks on (you really can’t), or when we’re running late (again), or when either you or your sister is in a particularly tough phase that seems never-ending. But now suddenly you are two – running, talking, trying to do everything yourself, and I find myself feeling almost disoriented, like – wait, how did this happen? And can we stop and go back for just a minute? The days are long, but the years are short, people say. It’s a cliché because it’s so, so true.
So, now I want to take a snapshot of you at two, to try to freeze time, if just for a moment:
You love trains (choo-choos), planes, and trucks. You are obsessed with shoes, sometimes even insisting to sleep in them. You love bananas – often eating two or three a day – spaghetti, yogurt, applesauce, and Goldfish crackers. You adore your sister and will do pretty much anything she tells you to, including pretending to be her baby while she “puts you to bed” under the corner table in the living room. You cross your ankles in front of you when you sit on the couch to watch a movie.
You’re deep into the “I do it” days and also like to close every door in our house, which makes your dad and me crazy.
You like to dance and run and go on hikes with us, though “hikes” mostly consist of you stopping every six inches to pick up a rock.
You haven’t bonded with a special stuffed animal but instead periodically fixate on a specific small toy for an extended period of time. For a while, you were obsessed with a round plastic sheep from a farm-themed Uno game. You called it your “ba” and needed it in your hand pretty much all the time. Right now, your constant companion is a black and white dog that came with one of our giant Lego sets. “Dog” goes everywhere with you – from room to room, in the car, to bed.
You are our social butterfly, smiling and saying “hi” to everyone you see. You’re almost immediately comfortable in new surroundings, with new people, which your dad and I – both introverts – find fascinating and amusing. Last week, at your doctor’s appointment, you marched down the line of people waiting to check out at the receptionist’s desk, proudly showing off the stickers the nurse gave you. “Dory stickers! Dory stickers!” you shouted at each stranger, as if you could hardly believe your own luck.
You are sweet and loving, always granting hugs and snuggles. When I ask for a kiss, you bow your head down, pressing your forehead to mine.
You sing along with me as I hold you and sing “My Zach” (to the tune of “My Girl”) in your room at night before bed. My favorite moments are when you wriggle around in my lap to lie against me, your head draped over my shoulder, your little arms wrapped around my shoulders.
You are our sweet, easygoing, happy boy. Your dimpled smile makes my heart light up every single day. And I am doing my best to hold on to that light, to savor each moment of this precious journey I get to take with you. Happy, happy birthday, my sunshine.