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When Your Baby Says ‘Baby,’ Is She Still Really a Baby?

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

Big girl = no booster seat at Costco

My baby said “baby” for the first time the other day, which leads me to believe she isn’t actually a baby anymore.

Peony, who is now 19 months old, has been on a language roll these days. About a week and a half ago she started saying “no” and actually meaning it (which, as most parents know, is helpful and cute for the first hour. Everything after that makes you long for the days when communication seemed an impossibility).

Then last week my older daughter Petunia taught Peony to say “baby,” which she says more like, “bay-BEE.” At the same time she also started saying “puppy” as well as “tweet” when she sees a bird. (Before Mensa sends us a membership card for Peony, however, let it be known that when she sees the gorilla in Good Night Gorilla, she says “meow.”)

She points out all babies, which she seems to define as anyone smaller and/or with less hair than her, and exclaims, “Bay-BEE!” It’s heartbreaking precious — in a face-value cute kind of way. But it’s also cute in an ironic kind of way, since I still think of her as a baby. Not just my baby, because she’ll always be my baby, of course. But when I change her diaper or she’s all sleepy and snuggly right before bedtime as she sucks on her pacifier, she’s still a baby-baby. Except, of course, babies don’t traditionally talk.

But it’s even more than just the few words she’s picking up daily with great enthusiasm. She’s carrying herself now like a bigger kid. I think it’s in part because she thinks she’s big like Petunia, who is 4. She runs upstairs with her sister for a bath, trying to swing a leg over the tub to jump in. When we go to her sister’s preschool to pick her up each afternoon, Peony dives right into the toys like she’s been there all day and is a card-carrying member of the pre-k class.

I’m trying to find that balance of enjoying each of her new little achievements while still enjoying whatever dependence on me she has left — and it doesn’t feel like much these days.

I guess that’s the good thing about your babies, though: They can grow up all they want but they can’t make you forget how they were when they were little, even if they stop acting that way much too soon.

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

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