I blinked and you were 3.
The moment you entered this earth is anything but a distant memory, my little one. It’s early in the evening and the doctor is about to go home and get some rest. “You won’t be meeting this child until early morning,” he tells me.
I get an epidural and it hasn’t yet kicked in when the contractions quickly intensify. You’re born soon after, the most brilliant little creature to share the same air as I. Though I’ve been circling this sun for 34 years, I realize that my life began the moment I became your mother.
And then I blink.
You’re a colicky little baby, who cries and cries and refuses to sleep the hours every baby book tells me you need. But I’m in such awe of you, this baby boy who I somehow grew inside of me.
How could a person as flawed as myself create something so beautiful?
You move your little limbs relentlessly, like you’re boxing and kick-boxing and remind me of how my stomach lurched with each thrust when you were still inside of me.
The sweet smell of you intoxicates my senses, and draws my lips to your skin several times an hour.
The diapers you wear, the smallest newborn size, dwarf you, and even those 0-3 month clothes are too big. It feels like you’re never going to fit into them. Your father and I giggle about how small you look in your crib.
“Such a small boy in such a big bed,” he tells me.
I’m sure that I can’t possibly love you more than I do, but then the next day your eyes open wider and gaze into mine, and I do. And the first time you smile and laugh, intoxicating and infectious, and the sweetest sound that ever travels through my ears, I love you even more.
I nurse you every few hours, amazed that all you need to live is the milk that I produce. I’ve never felt a connection to another human like this.
I barely sleep, yet still manage to function, sleepwalking through the mall in the winter. An old woman sees us, my eyes red with fatigue and you wailing loudly. “The days are long but the years are short,” she warns me.
I smile, though I have no idea what she means.
And then I blink.
You start sitting up, and then you’re crawling across the living room floor.
At night, you start breaking out of your swaddle, so we sleep train you. Your father has to comfort me the first night, because I desperately want to save you from your tears. From then on, you sleep through the night.
You effortlessly wean yourself from my breast. I remember our last nursing together, sitting up in your room at bedtime, you pulling away from the mother’s milk you so feverishly feasted upon for months on end.
You make sounds that resemble dada and mama and I can’t be sure you even know what they mean, but we communicate somehow.
You choose your favorite stuffed animal – George – a silly monkey and you sleep with him every night and carry him around the house with you wherever you go.
And then I blink.
At your first birthday party, you play with all of your friends. You may not be able to say their names, but you know their faces.
You smash chocolate cake all over your face, delightfully confused, maybe because of the sweet taste or else because everyone’s staring at you and singing “Happy Birthday.”
It dawns on me that you are no longer a baby.
You take your first steps. You are soon running. You grow your first teeth. Quickly your mouth fills up. I take you to get your first haircut. It’s terrible and I cry the whole ride home.
We start going to the playground every afternoon and I push you in swings and catch you at the bottom of the slide. You laugh and laugh and laugh.
After several months of pointing and grunting and speaking the language of baby that only moms understand, you learn a few words. You can identify numbers and letters.
Your love for George is stronger than ever, even though he’s starting to get ratty from dragging him around the country. We call him toilet monkey after you drop him into the basin.
And then I blink.
We celebrate your second birthday with a choo choo party and all your closest friends are there — but this year you are all mobile, scurrying up and down the stairs and through the playroom, fighting over trains and tractors and fire trucks.
We decide to try and have another baby, and though I desperately want a little girl, I feel guilty bringing another child into the home. How can I possibly love another the way I love you?
After my belly has swelled, I try to explain my pregnancy to you and it clicks. You start telling everyone who will listen, “Baby,” pointing to my belly.
I drop you off at school for the first time — a mother’s day out program at a local church. It is a bittersweet moment, walking you up those stairs wearing your little blue backpack.
The closer to your sister’s due date, the more scared I am that you’re going to be jealous of her, so I bask in those last few weeks alone with you. I know that things will never be the same. You’ll no longer be my only child, but you’ll always be my firstborn.
The day she’s born I’m reminded of the day you entered into this world, and how much we’ve all changed since then.
Within a week I realize that all of my fears were wasted, because you adore that little girl with all of your huge, vibrant heart and you shower her with attention and love and only get mad at her when she puts one of your trains in her mouth.
We take down the rails of your crib one day, after you climb out the night before and fall with a thud to the ground.
“Such a big boy in such a small bed,” your father says to me.
I drop something in the bathroom and you say to me, “Mama, don’t make a mess.”
You sing all the time – everything from Taylor Swift to songs about trains and boats and excavators.
And your smile and laugh are still so infectious that it’s hard to be mad at you for more than a few moments. You love to cuddle, and there’s no better feeling than to have my arms wrapped around your body.
You are a big boy, as you like to tell people. My big boy. No longer a baby, and barely a toddler.
“Three in September,” you tell me this morning.
I will keep blinking.
One day you will be an adult and I will be an old lady, reminiscing these sweet years. I will tell you stories about your childhood and repeat all the cute but silly things you said to the person you are going to spend your life with. I will hold you and kiss you and tell you that you’ll always be my baby. And you’ll say something like, “Oh mom,” and roll your eyes.
And when you welcome your first child into this world, I will say to you, “The days are long but the years are short, my child.”