Yesterday, in a post-shower fit of physical prowess, my son Ryan decided to show off his ability to hop on one foot. Tall and ungraceful, my eldest hopped from one foot to the other, almost falling down multiple times, wearing nothing but his Lightning McQueen underwear.
I have moments when I look at my children and truly see them as they are, not as maternal memory and affection sees them. I remember when Ryan was barely two, watching his little naked body as he took his bath, seeing the straightness of his body that had replaced the curled up baby he had been but yesterday.
Ryan never had a real baby face, or a lot of baby fat. At two his cheeks were less pinchable than his brother’s are at three and a half. The only really chubby cute baby part that Ryan retained past his first birthday was his upper legs. Certainly his legs were the cutest fat baby legs ever seen on the face of this planet. Roll upon roll, begging to be pinched, tickled, and loved on by a mommy who was always looking for an excuse to pinch, tickle, or love. The best part about Ryan’s legs was that even when the rest of his body had slimmed down to little boy proportions, the spot above his knees retained a little roll of happiness for me.
Yesterday I noticed it was gone. Yesterday, as he hopped around his bedroom with his long legs sticking out from his underpants I realized that overnight he had lost the last vestige of his babyhood. His legs, once so chubby and satisfying, are now knock-kneed and awkward and exactly how you would expect the legs of a five-year-old boy to look.
I look at him and I wonder where my soft, sweet-smelling, powder blue boy went. Somehow in the night someone took him and replaced him with a scabbed, dirty, laughing rogue. And I love that little man so much that my heart has surely expanded since the day when he charmed the nurses at the hospital with his bright eyes. I love the funny things he says, the crazy way he acts, the way he looks so much like his dad and behaves so much like me. So much of what I love and enjoy about him today, as he learns to write his letters and sound out a few basic words, as he flings his arms around me and says he loves me, as he plays such intricate games with his trains, are things that I never could experience with a baby. I love the little boy.
But it seems unfair that he should spend so much time being a boy and so little time being a baby. And I have no doubt that twenty years from now I will lament the brevity of his boyhood.
Part of me is afraid of the day I wake up and discover my baby needs a razor, and deodorant, and shoes the size of sleds. I am quite sure it will happen that way, because that his how his growing up has been. His voice will change, his hair will thicken, and he’ll be taller than me before I realize that the little boy is gone.
My ungainly dancing son reminded me of something yesterday, and I am so thankful for the reminder. Every day brings me closer to the day when his separation from me (begun the day he drew breath on his own for the first time) will be complete. Someday I will look up at my boy and realize that he is a man, no longer dependent on mom for kisses, hugs, or even money.
Every day of my son’s boyhood is a precious time, even with all the lost toys, the laundry, the broken dishes, and the headaches from his constant chatter.
I am thankful for the reminder to cherish every single day.