You took a shower today. Daddy let you wash your hair and scrub your body. You lathered and rinsed and didn’t need my help. I wasn’t ready for that.
Do you remember when I would wash you in the sink and meticulously scrub your scalp with a toothbrush? Do you remember how I carefully cleaned your body with that polka dot washcloth? I’d wrap you in a hooded towel and let your little face peek out. Do you remember? I do.
But today, you didn’t want to take a bath, you wanted to take a shower. I wasn’t ready, but you were.
We walked into church today, and you stopped in the hallway. You refused to go into the room because you were ready for the big kid class.
Do you remember when I’d hold your hand to walk you inside? I’d show you how to put felt shapes on the board and the toy frogs in the pond. I would sit behind you for storytime and help you make the craft.
Do you remember?
For years, I’ve sat in those chairs, looked at those walls, and walked on those floors. I can sing the songs in my sleep. But today, you stopped at the door. You were ready for the next class, where the parents sit in the back if they even go at all. I watched you volunteer to go up front. You sang the new songs and listened to the story by yourself. I wasn’t ready, but you were.
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Today, you started preschool. We bought a backpack. You chose a lunch box and put on new shoes. I filled out the paperwork and washed your favorite shirt. I told you how much fun you would have. But I wasn’t ready.
Do you remember when we used to drop your brothers off, and then go home—you and me? We’d play or color or run errands together. But now, I drop you off, too, and I leave alone. Soon, you will make new friends and your world will grow. You will gain knowledge I never taught you, do sweet things I never see, and say clever words I never hear.
I wasn’t ready, but you were.
It’s hard to imagine that yesterday you fit, head to toe, on my stomach. You’d curl into a precious ball and fall into a careless sleep. Now, you crawl onto the top bunk and fall asleep on your own. You, my last baby, reminded me that this was the last time my chest would be the safest place in someone’s world.
My baby, did you know your firsts would be my last? You were the one I held longer, nursed later, carried further, and snuggled extra. I hang on to each glimpse of the baby that’s left in you because I know too well by now. I know that once I let go of those moments, those stages, I won’t get them back. And I’m not ready to not have a baby.
You held me in this place where kisses heal boo-boos and the scent of my hair is all you need to fall asleep. We stayed in this place where we read the same book over and over, and it never loses its appeal. The others grew up too, but I still had you and we could stay. We could stay here where swinging on the swing is exhilarating and in my lap is the best place to be.
Even still, you keep getting older. You keep growing stronger.
You keep showing me you’re ready, even though I’m not, so I’ll do my best to come along.
When you learn to pump your legs, I’ll do my best to sit down and swing beside you. I’ll teach you how to kick the sky, and we’ll see who can jump the farthest.
When you won’t let me pick out your clothes anymore, I’ll do my best to embrace your style. I’ll encourage your individualism, and understand when you want that brand that all your friends wear.
When you stop telling me about your days or thoughts, I’ll try to remember that the little life I grew is not mine to keep. I’ll do my best to remember you are entitled to privacy.
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When you want to play with your friends instead of me, I’ll do my best to smile and watch from the sidelines. I’ll learn about your friends and help them feel loved and welcome in our home. I’ll remember how glad I am to watch you play and learn to get along.
I’ll sit back as you discover how to work with others and find your place in this world.
When you tell me I embarrass you or that you don’t want me to kiss you in front of your friends, I’ll do my best not to cry, and then I’ll try to tone it down a bit.
But, my sweet, last baby. You are the one who is changing me from a mommy of littles to a mom of bigs. You are the final one to grab my hand and cling to my legs.
Please know that even if you are ready, I’m not. So, when you stretch out and fall asleep on your own tonight, I hope you don’t mind if I remember how you used to curl up on my chest to fall asleep.