“Mama, I want to snuggle you.” My toddler crawls into my lap. His head is hot from running and playing, and if I close my eyes and breathe deeply, I can almost smell the baby he was not so long ago. Moments like this leave my heart aching, knowing he will one day crawl down from my lap for the last time.
He is almost 3 now — not a baby anymore, but not quite a big kid either. As he inches his way towards being a big kid and leaves the toddler years behind him, I find myself struggling with the idea of him growing up. I’m excited to see his blossoming independence, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to the innocence of his toddler years.
I know what you’re thinking, What kind of a person wants to hold on to the toddler years? Well, apparently, me.
Public tantrums and irrational behavior make it easy to wish these years away, knowing calmer waters are ahead. But the waters never stay calm for long, and before you know it, you’re waist-deep in the next challenging phase of childhood and of parenthood.
Wishing away one challenge only brings you to the next one more quickly. Parenthood is a compromise: In exchange for sweet snuggles, we willfully agree to the embarrassment of a public tantrum or the frustration of indecisiveness and impulsivity. As odd as it sounds, I’m going to miss it — all of it.
My son is likely my last baby, and watching him grow is like watching sand fall through an hourglass, knowing it will be gone before I’m ready, but powerless to stop it or slow it down.
With every new milestone, my heart swells with pride, then aches as I let go of another passing moment. I worry about his innocence. It’s such a bright light right now. He is beautifully naïve to the world around him. I worry his light will be dimmed, or worse, extinguished by the harshness and judgment in the world.
He confidently wears his Batman mask to the grocery store, embracing every ounce of who he is, unapologetically. I wish I could be more like him. I wish the world could be more like him.
With each passing day, he grows right in front of me — a new word, a calmer demeanor — another step towards being a big kid, and away from being a toddler. Is a mother ever really ready to say goodbye to this — to young motherhood?
I will gladly hand over the diapers and sippy cups, the Goldfish crumbs on the floor, and the screaming tantrums that leave us both exhausted, but I’ll keep the rest. I will hold on to it for as long as I can, and I hope he will too.