Tonight, I helped my soon-to-be-7-year-old son write a letter to the tooth fairy after losing a tooth somewhere.

You’re getting so big.

After the tenth how-do-you-spell-this, he turned to me and asked a different kind of question.

Do you ever wish I was still a baby?

And I started thinking of an answer even I didn’t know.

But first, I realize just why he’d ask such a thing.

You see, my soon-to-be-7-year-old son has a soon-to-be-2-year-old brother. He’s been by my side in the grocery store, hearing the well-meaning comments.

He’s gotten so big!

You just had him!

They grow up. so. fast.

The comments are geared toward a leaner, taller version of baby brother.

Sometimes it’s a fleeting remark, almost whispered as we slowly roll by a familiar face in the thin aisles of the local Winn-Dixie. Sometimes the comment is paired with an abrupt stop and a shake of the head.

They grow up too fast.

I laugh and say I know it without witnessing the idea plant itself into little minds while they pick out cereal.

Too fast.

Like riding down a hill too fast on a bike with rusted brakes.

Like driving too fast in a speed trap.

Don’t do it.

As if we mothers can reverse the rust; as if our children can force a heavy foot from the pedal.

Don’t get me wrong–I know that Mrs.Wilson at Winn-Dixie did not have ill-intent when she muttered the words she probably used as frequently as please-and-thank-you. I, too, have said such things.

I, too, have gushed for hours over baby cheeks after scolding a big kid for refusing to eat.

I, too, have shooed away my firstborn to cherish quiet moments with a fresh baby face.

I, too, have fed my son’s faint fears of the worst to come in disappearing years.

We’ve slowly and subconsciously convinced our older children that somewhere along the way that they’ve lost their magic.

It’s hard to not answer with a quick yes.

So many things were easier.

You were so innocent.

If I could do it over, I would do it differently.

As the baby days creep away, we trade diapers for discipline.

We give up cuddles for carlines.

Claps for learning first words turns into frustration over reading homework.

We forget to see the magic.

In truth, if these years weren’t so short, they wouldn’t be so sweet.

Dusk wouldn’t bewilder me if dark didn’t replace it so suddenly.

So as I hang on to daylight and fight sleep like a restless child, I’m always glad that I wake to a new promise of adventure and intrigue.

Here’s to the school project helper mamas making a midnight Wal-Mart run and the ballpark mamas living off Oscar Meyer and Great Value hot dog buns.

Here’s to all the mamas with baby toys packed neatly in containers under beds just in case or just for keepsakes, your most important work is just ahead.

Here’s to the little girls who just want to be heard and the little boys who just want to be tough.

Here’s to the babies who will always be babies; may affirmations on sticky notes in lunch boxes always be enough.

Because mama, if you think your heart skips a beat when you breathe in that baby smell, wait until that baby tells you he loves you. Wait until he tells you why.

Wait until that baby remembers a song from Sunday school, and wait until there’s a concert in your living room.

Wait until he asks you to take your picture because you just look so cute.

Wait until he tells you you’re the best at writing stories.

Wait until he looks at you and asks, were you like me?

Wait until he rocks his baby brother to sleep.

You. just. wait.

I look at my shaggy-haired, snaggle-tooth baby; I found an answer within an answered prayer.

You are still my baby.

Chuckles and sass sneak through smiles and baby blue eyes.

If I’m a baby, how will the tooth fairy know this is my tooth?

It’s magic.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Whitney Ballard

Whitney Ballard is a writer and mom advocate from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, where she writes about motherhood, marriage, mental health, and more. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holing a Master’s degree; she writes about that journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens. When she’s not writing while on her porch swing or cheering/yelling at the ballpark, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.