It hit me this morning as I sat on the couch with my oldest son.

The sunlight filtering through the living room window bounced off of his features just so, and I couldn’t help but notice that his once round cheeks had lost their fullness. He looked so much older at that moment, suddenly more mature.

He yawned and stretched his arms toward the sky. Without saying a word, he pushed himself up from the cushion and strutted to the kitchen. I heard the sound of snacks bouncing into a plastic bowl, then the telltale opening and closing of the refrigerator door. He returned with Goldfish in one hand and a Capri Sun in the other, and plopped casually back onto the couch as though nothing had happened.

As if he hadn’t just shattered every bit of this mama’s heart.

Because just like that, it hit me that my baby is now a kid.

When did this happen?

When did he stop needing me for every little thing?

Wasn’t it just yesterday he grinned up at me from the high chair, pureed sweet potatoes smeared across his face as he waited expectantly for the next bite?

Wasn’t it just yesterday he fumbled hesitantly over his first steps, arms outstretched in my direction?

Wasn’t it just yesterday he begged me to sing the ABCs just one more time while he tried to recite them, too?

Wasn’t it all just yesterday?

And yet, here we are.

Here HE is.

No longer a baby.
No longer a toddler.
But a kid.

In place of the newborn I once cradled against my chest is a boy who laughs at my jokes and returns my teasing with his own quick wit.

He climbs into his car seat and clicks his own buckles into place. He chooses his own clothes and gets himself ready for the day. He insists on brushing his teeth by himself and calls my name only when he’s ready for me to check his handiwork.

He asks questions like, “What is the name of this big bone in my leg?” and “Will our dogs go to Heaven when they get too old?”

And sometimes when I climb into bed beside him and offer to read a book, he smiles sweetly and says, “I think I’ll read it myself this time, Mama.”

How did this happen?

How did the years slip through my fingers without me even realizing it?

“Time flies,” they all say, but somehow I still feel blindsided.

I wonder if I’m ready for this new phase. My mind says yes—thank the heavens for independence. For help. For a season of less neediness.

But my heart cries no. No, no, no!

I’m not ready for the way his once chubby fingers are now long and slender when they grip mine.

I’m not ready for school years and closed doors. 

I’m not ready to no longer be his everything.

That morning snack—the one he gathered all by himself—somehow felt like a milestone bigger than any of the others we’ve shared.

The rest of the day, I couldn’t help but take note of all the ways in which he is growing—all the ways in which he has left toddlerhood firmly in his rearview.

I shed a few tears as I scrolled through videos of baby-him and allowed myself to feel the sting of passing time.

But then.

As the sun fell behind the mountain and the moon rose in its place, he came to me. He climbed into my lap and wrapped his arms around my neck, planting a soft kiss on my cheek.

Will you sleep with me tonight, Mommy?” He settled into the crook of my neck, and I was relieved to find he still fit perfectly there.

As I carried him to his room, the shattered pieces of my heart felt a little less broken.

Just like that he’s a kid . . . but he’ll always be my baby.

Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the beauty and chaos of life through the lenses of motherhood, marriage, and mental health. To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward