Dear Son: You're Not Growing Up

by Beth Pugh
Originally Published: 
Alena Ozerova / iStock

Right now, you are asleep in my lap. Your left arm is raised above your head still holding your security blanket. Your blanket isn’t a blanket at all, but my hair. You hold it as you drift off to dreamland, whether it’s at bedtime near 9 o’clock or when you wake at 5 a.m. Your breathing is relaxed, and it’s nearly safe for me to lay you in your crib bed, stepping carefully over the almost unnecessary baby gate blocking the hallway. The whole weight of your toddler frame is resting against my body as we snuggle. I can’t help but notice my lap is almost too small for you and your long legs.

But you’re not growing up.

I watched you just yesterday climb all by yourself into your car seat when we were leaving day care. My role was simply to buckle you in. I suspect soon you’ll be able to do that without my help, too. It’s just a matter of time, a small matter of time, at that, to my dismay.

But you’re not growing up.

You’ve learned to how to successfully pour water from a bottle into your own big boy cup. You may spill a drop or two, but for the most part, you’ve mastered the task. I remind you to use both hands and to hold on good when picking it up. I feel the need to do this. I think you need me to—until I look over only to see you holding your cute tiger cup with one hand. In that moment, I’m taken aback. Your hand is cupping the glass with no trouble steadying it whatsoever. I know the cup has not shrunk so the only explanation is your hand is now bigger, stronger, and able to do so much more than I care to admit.

But you’re not growing up.

You went through today without a single potty accident, just like you’ve done for the better part of the week. Your precautionary pull-up was dry this morning because your body and bladder are adjusting to big boy toilet training. Your underwear collection has grown from three pairs to nearly thirty and soon pull-ups will just be a memory for you. I’m so happy and relieved and beyond proud.

But you’re not growing up.

You brought home a goody bag from day care today with snacks and treats galore. Your favorites were the Starburst. You searched until you found them all. I asked if you wanted me to open the first one. You ignored me. I reworded the question and tried again. Silence. Then, I watched as your tiny fingers unwrapped the candy square, all by yourself. You threw the paper carelessly on the living room floor and popped the pretty pink morsel in your mouth.

But you’re not growing up.

I know everything I’ve said points to the complete opposite of this statement. I realize I sound like a mom in denial, but I’m not. It’s true I want you to be my baby forever. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love this time in your life. This time when having a picnic with me is the highlight of your day. This time when you still let me kiss your boo-boos to make them better. This time when you ask me to dance with you (pause for dramatic effect) in public!

I know it won’t be like this forever. I accept that you’re getting bigger. Your clothes practically scream this realization at me. The tummies on your T-shirts are getting tighter, and I just pray all your pants don’t turn into high-waters until it’s time to replace them with shorts.

But you’re not growing up. You’re growing out and away.

Out of 2T clothes and away from baby books. Out of size 9 shoes and away from sippy cups. Out of tantrums (thankfully) and away from riding in the front of the buggy. You’re growing out and away from me, too. Out of my arms and away from my protection. Out of my lap and away from our bedtimes. Out of my reach and away from my watch.

Knowing this, I fight the urge to hold you like this all night long, even though it’s a fight I know I won’t win. I have to lay you down. You need your sleep and so do I.

Rest easy, sweet boy, and know this: No matter how big you get, you will never grow out of my days or away from my future. You will never grow out of my thoughts or away from my care. You will never grow out of my heart or away from my love.

I’ll rest easy, too. I’ll calm my heart and quiet my thoughts. I’ll close my eyes and pretend I don’t know by this time tomorrow you’ll be a little bit further out and a little bit farther away than you are right now. I’ll remind myself that out and away stretch ever before me, and I can still shout out directions from where I stand. Knowing this, I can sleep tonight. I can handle out and away.

But you’re not growing up.

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