My baby is turning nine tomorrow. A little boy who’s getting definition in his arms and who cares about his clothes. He’s a boy who plays video games after school and football in the fall. He brushes his own teeth, washes his own hair in the shower, and reads books with more chapters than mine. He wears deodorant and puts on cologne. He has attitude and strong opinions and he sometimes argues with me with such strong logic I question my decisions. “Little boy” doesn’t even seem right. Little man? Pre-pre-teen? What’s the right word for that age when they stop needing you for most things? When you start to become a spectator?
Knowing it’s your only one makes it harder. It’s always hard to watch your baby grow but to know you won’t ever be a mom to an 8-year-old again is just a surreal and hollow feeling. I have a pretty aggressive form of crohns disease and having another baby isn’t something I can do. And it sucks. Because it means never going through pregnancy again or buying maternity clothes, and it means that snugging another newborn that’s the sweet combinations of me and the man I love won’t ever happen. No more first steps or first days of school. No more Curious George or Backyardigans. I feel a little twinge of guilt every time I donate an article of clothing because I didn’t give him a sibling to pass it down to.
So I watch him grow. I listen to old videos so I can hear his little voice, something I didn’t realize had changed so much. I watch him develop a personality and start to figure out who he is. He is a boy who is kind. From the tip of his head to the bottoms of his feet, he is kind. And it scares me. Everyone wants to raise a kind child; it might be the most important thing you can teach. I’m afraid because unfortunately this world is not kind and I dread the day my baby comes home from school with tears in his eyes because he had to realize just how unkind it’s capable of being. The hardest part of raising a child is that we can’t protect them from the hardest parts of life. Being made fun of, having his heart broken, losing his grandma. That’s just life and it happens to little boys whether their moms want it to or not.
So every night after he’s asleep I stand in his doorway, sometimes with tears in my eyes, and I think “Did I do everything I could to be a good mom today?” Sometimes I think I came close, sometimes I know I fell incredibly short. Whether it was because I lost my temper, I swore while driving, I fed him chicken nuggets for dinner (so NOT the organic kind) or because I simply didn’t dedicate enough time that day. I think we all do that every night, run through our list of shortcomings that day and make mental lists of how we can be better tomorrow. No mom stands in her kid’s doorway and thinks, “Yes. Today I did everything right.”
But today, my last day with an eight-year-old, I’m going to drop the guilt and quiet my fears and allow myself a moment to be in this moment. Where he is as small as he will ever be. Where he still thinks his mom can fix any problem he has. Where he still can’t see my flaws and the flaws of the world. So just for now, be eight little boy. Because with tomorrow brings one more year to grow.