Yeah, I 'Baby' My 7 Year-Old

by Elizabeth Broadbent
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I have three kids, all stair-stepped two years apart. My oldest, at 11 years old, has just started snarfing enormous quantities of food, stomping around, and sleeping until noon. My middle son, at age 9, likes amphibians, Star Wars, and sugar cookies (no, seriously, he has a thing for sugar cookies with sprinkles. It’s sort of disturbing). My youngest is 7 years old. He loves Star Wars, Amphibia, and Gravity Falls. He likes digging holes in the backyard and creating intricate imaginary world with his LEGOs. He’ll sit on the swing for an hour at a time. I baby the hell out of him.

He lives for it.

When he wakes up, I coo, “Hi, Sunny Bear,” and give him a big hug. More days than not, he curls up on my couch and goes back to sleep. I make sure he has plenty of blankets and a pillow. I say good morning to my other two sons, of course. But they tend to migrate towards their dog rather than me. Sunny hugs me. They hug the black canine terror known as Zelda.

It’s too easy.

He is, after all, the baby.

We Can’t Have Another Baby

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When Sunny was four days old, I held him in bed and cried. “Please tell me he’s not the last one,” I said to my husband. We’d always wanted a big family, and I couldn’t stand thinking he would be my last baby. “He won’t be the last baby,” my husband told me. “I promise he won’t be the last.”

But my pregnancy with Sunny was miserable. I had such severe hyperemesis I was hospitalized for dehydration. When they finally found a drug combination that let me keep food down, I could only manage to eat junk — anything else came up again. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at only twelve weeks along. My food situation became even more difficult. In the end, I was sleeping for sixteen hours a day (medication side effect), shoveling down junk, pricking my finger multiple times a day and shooting a truly enormous amount of insulin into my thigh. Because of the diabetes, I gained weight despite my hyperemesis — a lot of weight.

It was straight-out miserable. We couldn’t have managed if my husband hadn’t been adjunct teaching at a local university, which kept him home most of the time. When he did teach, I parented from our couch. My kids didn’t get a whole lot of attention from me. In fact, they got nearly no attention from me.

My husband teaches high school now; if I was pregnant, he wouldn’t be home to help. Our kids are homeschooled, so I’m the teacher — something I couldn’t manage if I was sleeping like I did with Sunny. We’re afraid my gestational diabetes would be even more dangerous, and since my hyperemesis had steadily worsened with each pregnancy, how bad would it get with number four? Would I be in the hospital more than once? With Sunny, I’d also needed iron infusions. With another pregnancy, I’d have to ditch three kids for three mornings a week. They’d miss a ton of school; we’d have to pay a babysitter; I’d use up what little energy I had.

We decided we couldn’t do it. There would never be another baby. I cried. I still mourn it deeply, even as our sons get older and we move past the baby stage.

But Sunny is our last.

It Doesn’t Help That He’s My Sweetest-Tempered Kid

“Oh, isn’t he polite!” my mother-in-law said about Sunny this summer. He never fails to say “please” and “thank you.” My other sons say that as well, but not as consistently — or which such big, blinky eyes. When he’s told he did something wrong, he bursts into tears: real tears, I’m-sorry tears, not manipulative, whiny tears. And when someone apologized to him, he very seriously looks at them and says, “I forgive you.” Without fail.

My oldest son is stompy and moody right now; while he appears for cuddles sometimes, Mama and Daddy are starting to become super-annoying. My middle son has severe ADHD; when we tell him not to do something, he often just does it more. They both refuse hugs when they’re upset — I offer every. single. time.

When Sunny’s sad, he curls up in my lap.

It’s really hard not to baby a kid who’s curled up on you, who always hugs you before the dog, and who, while the other two wrestle with their dad before bed, sneaks under the covers and cuddles.

Try not melting. Try.

I Love My Kids Equally… Sunny’s Just Easy To Baby

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I’ve spent eleven years with a consistent cuddle-buddy. If I ask (and before, all the time), someone has always appeared to curl up with me. Soon, cuddling with Mama won’t be cool. He already gets mad when I pick out his clothes, and I dearly loved to dress my sons up in cute outfits. So I feel like I have to get my cuddles while I can. Soon there won’t be anyone to baby. Sunny, in the end, is a convenient target for the babying.

His brothers know I love every single one of them — not in the same way, but they know there are no favorites. I adore taking my oldest to fencing and talking to him. I like reading with my 9 year-old and listening to him talk about the things he likes best. They all get cuddles when they ask for them. In fact, I offer them far more often than they take me up on it. 7-year-old Sunny just happens to want to cuddle.

I don’t play with him more often than I play with his brothers. I don’t discipline him less. But when I do discipline him, he apologizes. His oldest brother stomps off and his middle brother glares. Sunny. Is. Just. Easier. Which makes him even easier to baby.

Very soon, I won’t have a little one in the house. All my kids will be enormous teenagers who drink a gallon of a milk a day, each; who sleep too late; who stomp around and glare at me on a regular basis. I have to enjoy that precious childhood I have left. I know how quickly it’s fading. In the end, Sunny’s babied because he’s the youngest. End of story. I’d baby them all if they’d put up with it.

He’s my favorite cuddle buddy. I’m sure people will read this and assume he’s my favorite child. He’s not. But he’s the squishiest and right now, the sweetest. He sings in the car. Sometimes I sit in the passenger seat, listen to him singing R.E.M. in his little Minnie Mouse voice, and cry. This won’t last forever. Like Counting Crows say in Long December, “I can’t remember all the times I tell myself/ To hold on to these moments as they pass.”

He’s the last one I have to hold onto.