I tiptoe softly down the hallway toward the dark closed door.
It’s quiet now.
I turn the knob with care, push the door open, and noiselessly cross the room until I’m standing over the crib. The anchor nightlight casts a blueish glow on the room. The distant pitter-patter from a well-placed sound machine mimics a light, soothing rain.
He is exactly as I knew he would be, tucked into a tiny corner of space, though he has so much room to spread out, legs curled beneath him, bottom in the air, breathing slowly, rhythmically, peacefully.
Just a short while ago, he was a tornado of energy — my small, but mighty, mile-a-minute toddler — marching to and fro with such intent, such boundless curiosity. A fearless explorer.
Tonight, like so many nights of late, I’ve stolen into my 18-month-old son’s room after his final rustlings have subsided and he’s given in to slumber and collected him in my arms for one final embrace.
I pull him close as he sleeps undisturbed, brush his hair from his eyes, kiss his forehead. “Mama loves you so much,” I whisper. I place him back in his crib, cover him up, and leave as silently as I came.
In these moments, I feel calm, content, somehow whole again, grateful yet wistful.
He’s growing too fast. Everyone warned me about time, how it would seem to move at warp speed once I became a mother.
“Savor it,” they said.
And I have. I have.
I still feel cheated by time, and my heart aches to think of the day I know will eventually come to pass. When he will no longer welcome me scooping him up ceremoniously in my arms and smothering him with a hundred frenzied kisses as he wriggles and laughs in merriment.
The tides will shift, a line will be drawn in the sand, and he will be on one side and I the other.
How can it be that this innocent, uninhibited love between mother and child will one day irrevocably change?
How can it be that there will come a day when he no longer rushes into my arms with abandon as I walk through the door after a long day’s work? Hangs on my legs as I cook dinner, pleading, “Up, up, Mama”? Presses his forehead to mine after bath time, gazing into my eyes with such unrestrained love and adoration?
Already, he wants less cuddling, fewer kisses, more independence, more freedom to explore.
Yesterday, we visited a park. He toddled ahead of me, careening unsteadily, but determinedly, toward a patch of pavement as I rushed to catch up and steer him toward the soft, forgiving grass.
I felt a mix of pride and sadness as the distance he insisted upon grew between us. My big boy, striking off on his own.
“Hold Mama’s hand,” I instructed. He grunted, yanked his hand free, and veered off toward a basketball court to watch young boys passing a ball back and forth, a mix of wonder and envy in his eyes. My heart grew exponentially as I watched him blow them kisses as they played, demonstrating affection without reservation.
Stay this way forever, I instantly wished.
When he was small, we would rock quietly in the gray glider in his nursery — his body curled up against mine as he nursed, tiny fingers cradling my pointer finger as if to say, Never let me go.
I was his world. His constant. His source of comfort, safety, nourishment, and love.
I know change is inherent in life. That this is a rite of passage all parents face. That the relationship with my son I hold so dear will evolve into something equally beautiful and meaningful, though starkly different. That I must embrace this change and adjust to shifting tides with grace and acceptance.
But it pains me to think of losing the closeness of now — this deep-rooted love where there is no separation between him and me.
So I commit all the memories I can to paper, letting them serve as testament to the richest moments of pure love I will ever know: cuddling together in a tent amid stuffed animals and stale Cheerios, Eskimo kisses curled up together in the low light of bedtime, belly raspberries and high-pitched squeals of delight during mundane diaper changes, hysterical laughs while descending a slide in tandem, and silent moon gazing atop my shoulders.
I revel in this fleeting pocket of time and stolen kisses, and embrace this beautiful boy of mine until the tides shift again.