Last night my little dude slept in his crib for the last time.
It feels remiss that I did not make a big deal of it at the time; I hardly noticed. I tucked in my Benny Boo Bop, kissed him goodnight, and left to attack the laundry. Today my husband came home from work and we just spur of the moment decided to turn the crib into a toddler bed, as we had 30 minutes before I had to work.
As I sit here tonight watching him on the monitor, I am joyfully entertained. If you watched him now you would say, “Wow! He is not much of an explorer is he?” And you would be incredibly accurate. Whereas my sister could not keep my niece contained via crib for longer than 18 months, Ben is approaching three years old and has remained quite content in his baby prison. In fact, as I watch him on the monitor, he kicks around and explores his new bed and safety gate, but does not venture out into his room. He looks around, checks things out, but stays put, seemingly oblivious to his new level of freedom. It is so darn cute. Got me thinking how fast it all goes.
I think we all mourn the loss of our younger babies as they grow. We are happy to see them grow healthy and strong, that is implied. But this letting them go thing… well, it is a learning process. When you bring home that new beautiful baby, you feel like time stands still. You will always have a baby, it will always be this way. You are now a MOTHER…BEHOLD YOUR GLORY! It is truly amazing.
That is followed (at least in my experience) by UTTER EXHAUSTION and the struggle to assimilate your new wonderful (and NEEDY!) little being into your old life, juggling the demands of being a wife, mom, employee, friend, etc. The new role fits well, but is definitely not a one-size-fits-all for everyone.
Just as you are getting into a pattern that works for everyone, everything changes again. Whether you are thrown off schedule due to teething, sickness, or escaping the crib, you frequently regroup and adapt. Life carries on and you become a mommy pro, gaining confidence in your role even as you feel like you are failing at something everyday. It’s complicated.
Then one day you casually notice that you just moved your last baby out of their crib. No more crib. No more bassinet. Wow. You think back, trying to remember the last time you even saw a burp cloth, used a bottle, or brought the diaper bag into a store… has it been weeks, months, even years ago?? It is such a bittersweet feeling. I have always looked forward to toddlerhood, as I was never a fan of the baby stage. Oh, sure they are cute and all. They smell wonderful. They sleep a lot and are cuddlerific. However, I quite enjoy sleeping! I also tend to gravitate towards communicating, playing, and teaching toddlers more than rocking babies. For me right now, I think I am entering the “sweet spot” of my parenting years. My 6 and almost 3 year old need me, are loving, and we can start to do fun stuff as a family – movies, theme parks, activities – that we could not when Ben was a baby. Judging by how fast the baby years went, I am sure this sweet spot will not last long enough.
I am incredibly grateful for Ben. He was our second miracle and he has made our family complete. He is sweet, sassy, crabby every morning until he eats, and loves to run around crazy with his big brother. In some ways I make less of a deal about him growing up. I am most certain that I freaked out when we moved Ryan to the toddler bed. As many middle and youngest children know, the later kids typically get more flexible parents who are just too tired to make everything a big deal. They have some experience under their belts and know that despite their worst fears, things usually work out how they are supposed to.
Ben is growing up. Ry is growing up. We are all getting older. Life is constant state of flux. Sometimes it makes me sad and sometimes I am soooo glad to be leaving a phase (hello, potty training?! Barf). Tonight I hit pause on our busy lives and nod to this little milestone that maybe only a parent will notice. If you are going through a big change with your little one, or even just hitting an itty bitty milestone, try to pause. Not every moment is beautiful and not every minute is worth cherishing. But the silent reminders that they are changing pop up here and there, and deserve to be acknowledged. We do not always know when the “last time” of any activity with out children will be. When I am lucky enough to witness the “last time”, I will try to pause and sear the moments in my brain.
Ben sings a song and cuddles his Curious George and stays put, ignoring his obvious freedom to cause chaos. He is sweet, sleepy, and round. I will try to remember. Tonight is Ben’s first night in a “big boy” bed.