It is our first day home from the hospital, my newborn son is crying in my arms. My tears mix with his as I try to feed him. We have been up all night. I love him with a force I have never felt before. And while I know I can never live without him, I am overwhelmingly nostalgic for my life before him. His new teddy bear sits on the dresser in his blue room, looking a little bit lonely. I walk over and grab it, rubbing his ears as I finally settle into a rhythm as I nurse him.
He is 1, taking his few first steps. He looks back at me every time as he moves from the coffee table to the sofa and back again. I am trying not to act too excited, lest I distract him, but it takes all my strength. He is so proud. I am so proud, but then it hits me: this new baby I have growing in my belly is not going to have the same first year I was able to give him. I reach out to him. I am holding his beloved teddy bear he carries with him everywhere. He walks over to me. I scoop him up and tell him how proud I am that he is walking now.
He is 2, running toward me with his teddy bear, “Mama, Mama,” he so anxious to tell me how he fed him raisins. He wants me to know every detail. I am trying to listen while I nurse his sister. I can only give him half of me, he doesn’t seem to notice now, but I know he will later. He sits at my feet, cross-legged, looks down at Teddy and keeps feeding him.
He is almost 5, beaming as he walks out of his first day of kindergarten. “I had so much fun I didn’t think about you at all, Mama.” I am overcome with relief. He was so nervous about his big day. But it still stings — his life is about to grow bigger than me and our four walls, and I don’t know if I am ready. I tuck him in that night as he recaps his day one more time, clutching Teddy.
He is 6. I am standing outside of his classroom listening to him demonstrate his latest experiment for his peers. He is being loud, a little silly, everyone is looking at him, but he is confident, owning who he is. There is nothing like seeing him thrive when he doesn’t know I am watching. He doesn’t carry Teddy around anymore, but has to sleep with him each and every night.
He is 9. I greet him at the door after basketball practice, and for the first time, I smell something very unpleasant as I kiss the top of his head. It is time to buy him deodorant, and I tear up immediately. I knew this day was coming, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it so soon. He is beaming at me, “Mom, can you smell me?” He is proud, and I am so thankful he forces a smile out of me instead of the sobbing I feel bubbling in my throat. I teach him how to apply the deodorant after his shower that night. “Maybe Teddy wants some too?” He rolls his eyes at me. Clearly he is too old for such nonsense.
He is 11. His room is getting messier by the day. He has grown a little quiet lately. He would rather spend time with his friends than hang out with his family most of the time. I walk into his room. It smells like it did when he was a baby despite all the growing, changing, and bursting hormones. Teddy is under his bed. I pick him up, put him back on the bed thinking it must have fallen down in the night, and he is going to wonder where he is. But when I return the next morning to drop off his laundry after he has gone to school, I find the Teddy shoved in his closet.
He is 13. He is up early for school. It is still dark outside, and I open my eyes and catch a glimpse of him walking to the bathroom, only it doesn’t feel like I am looking at my son. I am looking at a man with broad shoulders and size 11 feet. He fills the doorway. I whisper, “Good morning, baby.” I get a mumble in return.
He leaves for the day. I know his sweatshirt is not keeping him warm in these below-freezing temperatures, but I let him venture outside without saying a word about it. If he wants to be cold, that is his business now. I walk into his room, find his teddy bear, and hold onto it. I won’t tell him though. It won’t mean anything to him until he is a father himself, with kids who are turning into young men and women who mumble instead of talk, who won’t wear coats on freezing cold days, who don’t need Teddy anymore.
Yes, maybe I will tell him then. I will tell him about how he was ready to let go of his Teddy way before I was.