It started when I packed away the last of his bottles to sell online. It was the moment I realized I was watching this precious stage in my life fade slowly into the distancea subtle progression from the present to the past. 

Soon, my baby boy was done with pacifiers and then sippy cups. Not long after, it was diapers and toddler utensils. Each time I purged a category of items because he no longer needed them, my heart sank just a little bit lower.

Letting go of those items seemed like so much more. I was discarding little parts of myself, leaving them behind at the Goodwill drop box or handing them over to a neighbor in need. 

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With my previous five children, I never went through this. We always saved everything to use with the next child that came along. But this timethis time there will be no more babies.

He’s my last one, and he’s five now.

He’s not a baby. He’s not a toddler. He’s a little boy who will be starting kindergarten before too long.

With each passing day, the baby and toddler stages of parenting move farther away, and I find myself struggling to cope with an ever-present fearthe fear that my memories will fade away with his youth. 

Sometimes I look at my youngest child and wonder if there is some way I can slow things down just a bit, some way to hold onto his younger days for as long as possible. He needs me less and less every day, and while that independence certainly makes things easier for me most of the time, I also miss the days of being relied upon for survival. Those were the days of experiencing motherhood in its most primal state. I spent so many years longing for those days, and now they are gone. Oh, how quickly they vanished!

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I will do everything I can to cherish my youngest child’s youth for as long as possible, and I will make no apology. 

As his childhood disappears, so does a very big part of me.

And I’m not entirely ready to let go of that part just yet. It is, after all, one of the best parts of who I am. So, for as long as he wants to be my baby, my baby he shall be. And that is more than OK with me. 

Emily J. Merrick

Emily J. Merrick has a Bachelor's Degree in Family Studies from the University of Kentucky. She worked in a variety of social work and educational settings before becoming a full-time stay-at-home-mom in 2002. She and her (high-school sweetheart) husband have been together for almost 30 years and married for 24. Emily is a mother of six. Her third child passed away after heart surgery. Emily's five living children range in age from 19 down to 5. She ran a very successful Etsy shop from home for six years before becoming disabled in 2021. She now shares her experience through writing and enjoys time at home with her family and pets on 12 beautiful, rural acres in Kentucky.