They're Only Little Once — And For That, I'm Grateful

by Rachael Pavlik
Originally Published: 
only little once

“They’ve gotten so big!”

My husband seemed shocked, but it’s not like they grew overnight. Looking aghast, his face searched mine for answers.

“I don’t even know when it happened.”

I do.

Like most big life changes, this had been evolving slowly over many years, though neither of us wanted to admit it. Of course, I saw it coming sooner. The truth is, it had never been a good fit for me, not even in the beginning. Nowadays, during the quiet times when we busy ourselves with chores like laundry, as we were doing then, we reminisce about the little ones. What I saw growing over time, he seemed to have only discovered this very minute.

“I used to hold them in one hand, those tiny little things,” he lamented. “Can they really be gone forever?”

“Don’t be so dramatic.”

“Well, I miss them, that’s all.” My husband wore a wounded look, bruised by my ambivalence.

“I’m sorry, but when they were that little, they were downright annoying.”

It was true! Weren’t we at the point where we could finally be honest about these things? For some women, it seemed effortless and natural. But for me it was always…a struggle. Every day and night with little ones driving me crazy? I could admit that to him now.

“How can you say that?! They were so adorable!”

“Maybe to you, but they were crawling up my ass 24/7!”

“I know you feel differently, but I miss that.” He looked away, wistfully.

“I’m sure you do, but they always woke me up in the middle of the night. Ugh.” I rolled my eyes.

“They woke me up too.” He smiled.

Stop. Don’t even.

“Do we need them around to be happy? Is that what kept us together?” I asked.

“No, don’t be silly. They just added so much, you know, spice to our lives way back when.

“Maybe for you… I can barely remember when they were that tiny, anyway. It’s all a blur.”

“I can. I remember everything.”

“Well, do you remember how expensive they were?”

“Like they aren’t now?!” he sputtered.

We locked eyes in the silence. He wanted to convince me, and I wavered.

“We could actually start all over,” he said, smiling devilishly. “How about a whole new bunch?”

I stopped wavering.

“Hell no!” I huffed. “Have you seen these stretch marks?” I sighed. “Those days are long gone. And while we’re being 100% honest, I never even wanted the last pair of them! It was a moment of weakness, something to make you happy — when I look at them I feel nothing but regret!”

“You take that back!”

“I wish I could take them back!”

He sat stone-faced. Confused. Defeated. Was he shocked at my callousness?

I patted his shoulder and tried to soften my tone.

“We can’t live in the past. We can only remember the good times, relish the joys that were.”

“Well, I do have pictures,” he sniffed.

“Oh, Lordy — are you crying? Again?”

“No, but sometimes, when I look at them now, I want to cry.”

I took his hands in mine and tried to make him understand.

“Sure, it’s a huge adjustment for both of us, but I’m happier now, don’t you see?

“Huge,” he repeated.

I continued.

“Yes, I know, but it was time to be done with it.”

He stared at the laundry instead of me. It was like talking to a brick wall.

“Anyway, I’m way past 40,” I reminded him.

“So, what?! I’ve seen women way ol—”

I cut him off.

“As a man, you may never understand the way I feel now — I’m done! And by the way, you weren’t the one trapped caring for tiny things for years. These days, it’s not such a strain on me. It’s different, but better. Now they hug me, not just cling to me all day and night. I’m comfortable the way it is now. I know you aren’t, but I am not sorry that I can breathe again. Finally I feel…I feel free!”

I cried.

He tried to smile, but I knew he just didn’t get it. I persevered.

“You’ve always had that freedom. I don’t need your judgment about it. I need compassion and support, no matter what.”

He looked at me with resignation.

Reaching into the laundry basket, he held up my enormous, beige granny panties with both hands.

He wiped a tear with them and sighed.

“I guess what they say is true. They really are only little once.”

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