We pulled into our typical parking spot at Prince of Peace. We’ve been coming here for 2.5 years. I was hugely pregnant when Hope attended summer camp here. I could not keep up with her and got desperate to find a place that she would be safe and entertained while I plopped myself in the pool for hours on end with my growing belly.
I unbuckled James & he excitedly hopped out of the car ready to see his beloved blonde-haired teachers. They just so happened to both be named Teacher Chelsea. Hope truly loves and takes pleasure walking him to the playground, giving him a huge smooch, and waving goodbye. She’s very maternal. She’s very much my daughter. She’s 5 going on 14. It scares me at times. For real!
We dropped off our smiley James and headed to Hope’s classroom. This would mark her last week of preschool. She’s been attending since she was 2.5 years old. This is a big deal. Weeks ago, out of habit, I retrieved the paperwork for both kids to sign up for Fall registration, only to realize I didn’t need to fill out Hope’s paperwork, as she would be attending Kindergarten @ Cherokee Elementary in the Fall. I got a bit teary-eyed, as I returned the paper work, so they could utilize it for another family. Ms. Leanne took it from me and gave me a little hug knowing it was tough for me. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around. How has she grown up so fast?
I thought about how precious it is that Hope and James have attended the same school. They often play at the fences of their separate playgrounds. They are only separated but a narrow sidewalk. Hope would often wave and James would run up and smile and they would laugh. I’ll miss the lovableness of witnessing those moments. We’ll just have to make more memories, won’t we?
We opened the gate and I walked Hope all the way into her classroom. Her beloved teachers, Teacher Amanda and Teacher Sue, smiled warmly as we entered the colorful and fun and super creative classroom. We love her teachers and all that they have done for Hope, as their endless efforts and hours and planning isn’t measurable even a little bit. Hope loves it here. POP has become such an important place for Hope. She’s grown so much and learned countless upon countless things here.
I popped Hope’s lunch in the fridge as always. I bent down and gave Hope a huge smooch on the cheek. I always kiss her a little harder before I depart. I guess I always give harder hugs and louder smooches. I’ve sort of always been this way. It’s my mom’s fault. I love hard. I care hard. It’s in my DNA. I can’t help it. Big heart. Big feelings. Big emotions.
Ask my college room-mate. I once saw her across Goshen College campus and sprinted to her just to give her a hug before class. & if ya know me, you aren’t surprised by this in the least, but looking from the outside, I probably look like a crazy person. I’m very sentimental and care way more than I should about most things and most people.
I gave Hope a smooch, as I’ve done each and every day for the last 2.5 years, and it made a little sucking sound on the side of her face. It was one of those kisses. I think I kissed her a little harder that day knowing it was her last preschool day. Hope made an interesting face. She motioned for me to come down for a secret. She had a request, “Mom, can you go to the door, from now on, and blow me a kiss, instead of giving me a loud kiss on the cheek?”
I nodded and my heart sank just a little bit. Let me get this straight, you are 5 years old and asking me to lessen my kiss intensity? I thought this happened at 14, not 5. I nodded and then when I turned, a tear rolled down my cheek. I can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that my preschooler is going to be a kindergartener. I’m happy and sad and excited and thrilled and grateful that this little ball of blonde sunshine is mine and already getting so incredibly big. This long lashed, smart as a whip goofy gal, like her dad, is my little girl, or should I say… BIG girl?
Days ago, B and I were having a convo in the car, ya know the convo about our little boy growing into a BIG boy, as he will be 3 in a few short weeks. Slow down, time, please just slow down. We had negotiated and agreed the it was time to no longer warm up a big milk bottle in the wee hours of the night.
You see, this wee hour of the night tradition has been a regular thing for me for YEARS. Each night, I have the sweet and loving and caring opportunity to hold my sweet baby James in the rocker. We sing lullabies, count each other’s fingers, laugh, cuddle, snuggle, and I rub my hands over his ever so softer than soft skin and am reminded that he’s still my baby. It’s quiet and uninterrupted and calm and there is this sentimental thing between us, as its dark and cozy and warm and loving. I look forward to it each and every night. & suddenly, it’s stopping. Just like that, it’s all over.
I’m sitting in the car thinking of this all stopping so suddenly. I squeeze Brian’s hand and both my eyes fill up with tears and I do just about everything to not allow the tears to spill over, but they get so full that they spill over and I start crying, out loud.
Hope asks B why I’m crying and he says, “Mom is sad that you are growing up to be so big and you are no longer babies anymore.”
I get it together because I realize that it’s time, it’s time to stop the bottle feedings because he’s going to be 3 and I can’t slow down time or halt time or go back in time, but I have all the memories.
Ya know that beige rocker is where I breastfed both of my babies for 2 years each. That rocker represents the world to me. I used to cradle each of my babes in my arms, night after night, and they would fit perfectly in my arms and now, James’ legs and feet hang way over the edge and he still allows me to cradle him like a baby and he still enjoys it almost as much as I do. We’ve shared these intimate moments of cuddle snuggle time in the wee hours. This special bond has been created between us, as the rest of the household has been sleeping ever so soundly through the night. I’ve never ever disliked getting up as I think it is a privilege and an honor and a gift to be able to wake up in the middle of the night and cradle that bundle of absolute delight. I love to feel needed and wanted and longed for. I adore the little sound in the middle of the night, as James often says, “Mama, hold you.” That translates to, “Mama, hold me.” He’ll say, “Mama, rocking chair.” It melts my whole entire heart each and every time.
So, we’re changing things up for tonight. James is very literal. So, we decided to put bottle to bed in a little bitty Tupperware container, with a kitchen towel as a blanket and cotton balls as a pillow. & I told James we had to put that bottle to bed until the sun came up, again, and then we could wake him up and fill him up, again. J put him in the Tupperware bed and covered him with a bright-colored dish towel. He lovingly stroked the cotton balls and we sang that bottle a lullaby.
4:30 a.m. rolled around and I heard him call for me, like clockwork. After all, I was the very one that taught him to midnight snack. I popped up as I did every single night only to have B put his hand out to stop me. B went in, rubbed his back, and J just got louder and louder and cried harder and harder. & I covered my ears because I hate hearing him wailing for me and me not being able to comfort him. In fact, I hate when babies cry for longer than 30 seconds. I do everything I can to get it to stop as quickly and as painlessly as humanly possible. That’s just me.
B went in, again, and it got worse and louder and worse and louder and I could not stand it one more minute. I went in and scooped that baby right up and sang “You are my sunshine.” Then, he said, “Buh buh” and pointed to his bottle in his little bitty bed. I shook my head. Then, I asked, “How about juice or water?” He opted for juice. He said, “I come with you” and I gave in, as I often do, but I have to sneak because everyone is sleeping. I walked into the kitchen, carrying J on my hip, my back aching in pain. I filled up his juice cup and B shook his head, as he was already getting up for the day. I said it wasn’t milk or a bottle and he seemed to be ok with it. We hugged and rocked and sang and cuddled and snuggled. Before leaving his blue-walled room, I asked him who my favorite boy was.
We often joke about this. I began listing and asking:
“Gordon?” He shook his head.
“Thomas?” He shook his head and smiled.
“No!” & smiled his one of a kind cute as all get out smile that I could eat I love it so much.
“James?” & he smiled so big his eyes smiled, too.
I placed him in his crib and made sure he had his lovey, glow in the dark Paci, my super fluffy warm robe he loves to sleep with, a blanket, and his juice cup. I blew him a kiss and left shutting the door quietly. I didn’t hear a word for about a half hour… and then, at about 5:30, the sun came up and so we had to wake up his bottle. The sun peeked itself through the wooden white shutters and he woke up. Time for the day!
All these giving ups are a part of life and definitely are needed, but they are hard and I think they are harder for moms that know this is the last baby. There will be no more breast-feedings, diaper changes, pull up changes, pacifier hunts, bottle warm ups, and more. I’ve enjoyed it, even the diaper changes, pull up changes, bottle warm ups, pacifier hunts, and more. But, it is time for us to move onto the next phase of our children’s lives.
It’s an honor and a privilege and an absolute gift and joy to be a mother to small children. It’s not easy, but it is my absolute favorite thing in the whole wide world. I am still going to kiss Hope on the cheek even if she doesn’t want me too. It’s too early, Ms. Hope, for you to not need this proud mama of yours. I just can’t help it.
& there will be new ways for me to be there for my children- intimate ways to connect and bond with them- it will just look different. We’ll continue our tradition of CAMP COZY. I blow up the air mattress and lay it next to Hope’s bed and we read books and cuddle and chat and I sleep next to my firstborn it is beautiful, a way to bond with Hope, and a new kind of intimacy with my curly-haired gal.
I read somewhere that we have 18 summers with our kids. That was a scary statistic. That means I have approximately 13 more summers with Hope and approximately 15 more summers with James. I will do my very damnedest to cherish each and every moment and to create individual and family memories that I will cherish for life.
I encourage you to embrace the season you are in with your children. As I say goodbye to the baby years, with tears in my eyes, I look forward to the new memories and moments that will inevitably be created with each of my children and my beloved family of 4.
I’ve thought about having another baby, more than once. I’ve thought about it too much. Every single time I see a baby, I get that little tug at my heartstrings. B said he got teary-eyed the other day upon seeing a friend’s brand new baby and he came home mentioning he wanted 7 MORE kids. I’m quite certain my pelvic floor sank a little lower and I got a little squeamish. Good Lord that is a lot of children. They are the most incredible blessings in the whole wide world. I think having one is like having none and having more than one is like having 10, so adding a 3rd would be little to no big deal.
We’ve scheduled B’s vasectomy 3 times. Three! & every time the day arrives that he’s due to get clipped, I call him in tears begging him not to go to the appointment because I have yet, at my late age of barely 39, not quite wrapped my whole heart around being done-done carrying that growing baby miracle in my tummy, the glow of being pregnant, the beauty of having my existing babies lay on my belly, the pure joy of having Jack sleep right on my growing tummy, the kicks, the hiccups, the eating of sugary treats as much as I want, the big eyes of our existing children meeting their brother or sister for the very first time, the intimate feedings, the ever so important milestones, the watching of a growing baby, and more. I just don’t know if I’m ready to call it quits. I just don’t know if I’m all the way done… and so… we shall see if we will have another.
For now, I will embrace each and every cuddle that is requested, each hug, each kiss, each arm reach, each time my kids say “I love you” in their own unique way, the way they smile over the silliest of things like sprinkled donuts and ghetto rigged hoses hanging from our willow tree our plastic slide sitting upon our broken slip n’ slide, and the smiles and giggles for no reason at all except to breathe in a new day, to wake up with the sun and cuddle in mom’s beloved white robe that they adore so very much and prefer over any blanket or pillow.
& I’m crying… again. May you love your children, wholly and unconditionally in all the seasons as they grow from infant, to baby, to toddler, to preteen, to teen, to adult, to older adult, and to elder. May we never ever forget to love our children with our whole selves each and every day of our lives, as every day is a gift, a precious gift that we mustn’t forget. & if we get too wrapped up in the past and who they were, we may forget to absolutely live in the present moment of where they are right now.
May God Bless You & May God Bless Your Precious Children As They Truly Are God sends.