I'll Baby Him For As Long As He'll Let Me

by Wendy Wisner
Imgorthand / iStock

Yes, I’m that mom, the one who lingers after pre-K drop-off, standing in the bathroom while her son washes his hands, pulling out the paper towel for him, turning off the water, and making sure he’s washed all the soap off his sweet little hands.

I’m the mom who walks him over to the breakfast table and tells him what they’re serving, even though it’s totally obvious. All the other kids are already sitting down eating, having poured their own cereal and milk or asked the teacher for help.

I’m that mom who lays out a Styrofoam bowl, a plastic spoon, and a folded napkin for her son, then guides his hand around the cereal container and helps him pour. I’m the mom who squats down next to him for a few minutes while he eats, asking him what he’s looking forward to doing in school today and talking about what we’ll do when I pick him up.

I’m the mom who stays for as long as he wants me to, until he’s ready to say good-bye. When he tells me not to go, I lean my forehead into his and tell him that we’re locking our thoughts together — that whenever he thinks of me, I’ll think of him too.

I’m the mom who covers him in kisses and hugs, promising they’ll stick to him all morning, even after I leave. I’m the last parent left at pre-K. All the other parents have gone, scurrying off soon after they walk their children through the door.

Tomorrow I’ll leave a little earlier. Tomorrow I’ll leave after hand-washing and let him ask the teacher for help at breakfast time if he needs it. Tomorrow I’ll see if he’ll let me stand outside the bathroom door while he washes his hands.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe my routine of babying him at school will go on for a few more weeks or months. Maybe I’ll do it in some shape or form until the end of the school year.

The thing is, I don’t care. I don’t need to track it. I don’t need to make any drastic changes or decide that on some given day, I’m going to step way back and make sure he learns to be independent.

It’s going to happen. One day he’ll decide he wants to do everything himself. Eventually he’ll come to class and start chatting away with a friend, forgetting I’m even there.

Before I know it, he’ll be just like my 9-year-old, who sometimes still lets me kiss him after drop-off but wipes my kisses away as he runs off to the tarmac for morning line-up.

I’m done apologizing for babying my son. I’m through comparing my son to the other kids and parents at pre-K, at the playground, in the grocery store, on social media, or anywhere else. He will only be this little for so long, and only he and I know when the time will be for all the “babying” to end.

We are in the middle of our own mother-and-child dance. Sometimes we’re dancing so close, we touch. Sometimes one of us is drifting gently away, spinning off into our own world and then coming back for a bit before twirling off again.

Only he and I know the steps, though most of the time we’re making them up as we go along, dancing by instinct, guided by love.

The things I do for my son give him comfort, and why shouldn’t I give him that? They make his daily separation from me, which he’s still getting used to, that much more peaceful and easy.

The world can be big and scary sometimes, and maybe that is why some parents feel a need to move their kids toward independence as early as possible. But it’s also precisely why I want to give him the comforts of closeness for as long as I can.

I know I could push my son further, faster, without any damage at all. But I choose to take it slow for no reasons other than I can and he wants me to.

Because before I know it, he won’t want to anymore. And I’ll miss that with all my heart.