For over 10 years, I was constantly nursing and/or pregnant. For over 10 years, I was rarely without a baby in my body, on my hip, or latched onto my breast. For well over 10 years, I wiped bottoms, read bedtime stories, chased away monsters, and cut the grapes in half and the crusts off of PB&J sandwiches.
Then I blinked, and all my kids were big.
Honestly, I don’t remember the transition. I don’t remember that last time I nursed a baby. I don’t remember doing a happy dance because I had just wiped my last bottom. I don’t remember leaving the store with an extra 10 bucks because I didn’t have to buy diapers.
I just know that now every shoe in my house will either fit me or is too big for me. I know none of my bras have flaps, and every morning when I wake up, my husband and I are the only two people in our bed.
I guess the fact that these changes have been so seamless means that I have adjusted fairly well to a life without little people. I miss nibbling on tiny toes, but I like borrowing my daughters’ shoes. I miss rocking my babies to sleep, but I like staying up late with my kids and watching The Office on Netflix. I miss sticky kisses and jelly-faced grins, but I think I’m doing OK. Still, there are a few mommy habits that I should kick, now that I’ve transitioned “Mom” stage of motherhood:
1. Eating Off Their Plates
Back in the days when my best hope for a decent lunch was to wolf down a few bites of cold mac and cheese as I was clearing the table, eating off the children’s plates was not only efficient, it was a matter of survival. Now, finishing the last few bites of one of my kid’s plate of pasta or eating their discarded pizza crust is not only unnecessary, it’s kind of gross now that I think about it.
2. Wearing Crappy Pajamas
When I was nursing all through the night and/or feeding a messy toddler first thing in the morning, it just made sense to sleep (okay, sometimes spend all day) in yoga pants and a ratty old T-shirt, circa 1992. But those days are gone. I’m not leaking breast milk. No one spits up on me. And no one throws mashed banana at me from across the kitchen table—not even on our worst mornings. I am sure my husband wouldn’t mind if finally I reverted back to my pre-baby bedroom attire.
3. Leaving Half the Bed Free
In addition to being pregnant and/or nursing for over 10 years, my husband and I also had one or more (usually more) tiny people in bed with us on any given night. Even when the youngest transitioned to sleeping in his own room, we left half the bed available for the inevitable late-night caller(s). Now, no one calls. Yet still, we leave a place. Even though we are free to take up the whole bed, my husband and I still sleep right next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, all night long. On second thought, maybe we should keep doing that.
4. Listening to What the Kids Want to in the Car
Our first baby was soothed by the soundtrack from the musical Oklahoma. With the rest of the kids, it was The Laurie Berkner Band; Philadelphia Chickens; Peter, Paul, and Mommy; or this reasonably tolerable folk music for kids playlist I made. I know, as far as kids’ music goes, it could have been so much worse. In fact, nowadays sometimes it is so much worse. Give me The Aardvark Song over Selena Gomez any day. But actually, I don’t have to listen to either. No one is going to wail in agony or throw Cheerios at the back of my head if I flip the station to NPR—at least they better not if they ever want another ride to the mall.
5. Hiding the Veggies
I have been sautéing, pureeing and hiding veggies in pasta sauce, smoothies, and even brownies for years. News flash! That’s not “seasoning,” it’s spinach. It has always been spinach, kids.
6. Punishing Them by Saying, ‘Never Mind, I’ll Do It Myself!’
There’s really no reasonable explanation for why my kids can only fit four glasses, six plates and a bowl into the dishwasher. I mean, it’s not physics. I know putting sheets (sheets your mother has washed for you) on the bed is a pain, but it doesn’t require a college degree. Yet, my bright, capable children seem to struggle to complete these seemingly minor tasks. But they don’t struggle for long, because soon I swoop in, sigh in exasperation and say, “Oh just forget it! I’ll do it myself.” They aren’t preschoolers trying to buckle their own car seats—something I waited patiently for them to master, by the way. They are big kids who really can do it themselves. If I can just back off and leave them alone.
Aside from these (and maybe just a few more) adjustments, I have acclimated pretty well to life with big kids. But there is one thing that I have not been able to stop doing, something I guess I thought I would stop: I can’t stop being utterly captivated by my children.
I used to stare at my sleeping babies, and my heart would ache with love and wonder and a longing to give them every good thing. I would kiss their fat cheeks and play with their chubby fingers and feel entirely awed by the little miracles sleeping next to me. I used to close my eyes at the sound of their giggles and belly laughs, trying to capture the moment in my memory. I used to savor the smell of their skin, the feel of their downy heads brushing against my lips, and the way their faces lit up at the sight of me. They took my breath away.
Turns out, they still take my breath away.
They don’t smell like baby soap and cookies anymore. And they rarely light up when I enter a room. But they take my breath away. I thought they would outgrow being so adorable. I thought there would come a time when they would be big and smelly and moody, and I would be over wanting to scoop them up and squeeze them and kiss them until they begged for mercy. But I’m not over it. Most days I refrain. But I’m not over it.
I knew I would miss having little ones, but I didn’t know that missing little ones would be tempered by the fact that having big kids is just as delightful, just as magical. Yes, there are a few things I need to stop doing now that my kids are big, but being amazed by them isn’t one of them.