I had so many nicknames for my youngest when he was little that I couldn’t keep track: Butterbean, my sweet bubba, Bubbles, my Jackie. I could go on and on. When he was about four, he told me that his name was Jack, and that’s what he wanted to be called. He’s the youngest of three and that was my first clue he didn’t want to be treated like the baby of the family anymore.
A few years after that, he’d gotten an inkling that the tooth fairy and Santa weren’t real. He repeatedly asked me and told me he wanted to know the truth, but I kept up with the charade of these fictional characters because I wanted him to keep experiencing the magic. Or maybe I wanted to keep him from growing up too fast because I knew he was my last baby.
He lost a tooth shortly thereafter and stayed up one night to see if the tooth fairy was really going to come or if his mother was the one who put dollar bills under his pillow in exchange for a tooth.
He came down the next morning, announcing to his older brother and sister (who still believed) that he was really awake when I came in to put money under his pillow. “I know the tooth fairy isn’t real. And if the tooth fairy isn't real, neither is Santa.”
He strutted down the stairs, tall with confidence.He didn’t want to be shielded, protected, and treated like he needed extra attention in any way.
Now he’s almost seventeen and talks a lot about moving to the other side of the country when he graduates high school. The first time he told me this, I teared up and he got annoyed. “You are my last one, honey. I’m not ready to hear about you moving across the country,” I told him.
“I’m not your little blue tooth,” he said. “I am my own person.”
Every time I’ve coddled him, or asked him a bunch of questions before he goes out to meet friends or asked him more than once if he is okay if he’s not feeling well, he gets incredibly annoyed. He reminds me I held his hand the longest, was more hesitant about giving him certain freedoms, and kept a closer eye on him. And he is right. I absolutely have done that.
He is my last child, my baby, and I am guilty of trying to savor and extend his childhood. And he hates it.
I’ve tried to not draw attention to the fact that he’s the youngest at times, but I don’t do a great job. I know it bothers him, and he wants to be treated like he’s my kid. Just not my youngest kid.
I think as mothers it’s hard to let all of our kids go, but the youngest? That’s a particularly hard one. Our youngest is a reminder that we’re going to experience so many lasts as a mom: the last time we drop a child off at school. The last time we see one of our kids graduate. Last summer we had a child living at home.
I tell my son all the time I will try to do better, then I fall into my old habits. A “Butterbean” will slip out. I’ll hug him too long. I’ll tear up when we talk about graduating and moving out.
He didn’t ask to be the youngest child, but he has asked me to stop treating him like the baby. And while I’ve told him I’ll try to get better, I follow it with “I can’t make any promises.” Which is probably the reason he wants to move so far away from me.
Katie lives in Maine with her three kids, two ducks, and a Goldendoodle. When she’s not writing, she’d reading, at the gym, redecorating her home, or spending too much money online.