Well, it happened. Despite my best efforts, my sweet baby turned 1 year old.
Months ago, when he first rolled over, I thought, no! I’m not ready for this! When he first started crawling, I thought, no! I’m not ready for this! When he took his first steps, at the urging of my parents, I said, “Stop encouraging that! I’m not ready for it!!”
So, most certainly, I wasn’t ready for my baby to turn 1 and not be a baby anymore.
My son’s first birthday was idyllic, graced with family and cake and even a life-sized giraffe. There were enough people around and enough work to do getting ready for his birthday party to distract me from the ache in my heart.
But in the days since then, that twinge in my heart has crept up on me, and it lingers there today.
My son is wonderfully independent — he charms total strangers and is content to be held by anyone, anywhere. Even when he takes a hard fall, he can’t find the time for a reassuring cuddle with mom. I’m proud to have a happy, well-adjusted kid.
The days of nursing him in the morning, with his little body snuggled up against mine are long, long past. His precious little baby toes have morphed into stinky boy feet that must be wiped clean of dirt and dog hair each night. Those feet point away from me more often than not, as he lurches gleefully after the dogs or scrambles after a rolling football.
He is growing up. Growing into. Growing away.
I know this is part of the deal. You don’t get to have them forever, and if they don’t want to grow up and leave the nest, you’re not really doing your job. You have to hide your tears and cheer them on to bigger, brighter things.
My husband says to me frequently, “He’ll always be your little boy,” and I know he’s right. But there’s part of me that wishes that he’d always be my little baby.
While our kids played together at a playground recently, I mentioned to a friend that I think I may have a tendency to baby my son. My friend replied simply, “You do.”
This friend of mine is the sassy, straight talking type, and I love her for this. But the truth of her words hit home as I watched her daughter, just three weeks older than my son, climb the slide and go down it head first — all by herself. I looked down at my son, who was about to pop one of the rubber playground chips into his mouth, and thought to myself, well, she’s right.
She is right. I do baby my son. I only get to have him for so long and I’m in no hurry to speed it up. He’ll do everything he’s supposed to do when he’s ready, and it’ll still be before I’m ready. In the meantime, I’m savoring each precious moment.
The night of his birthday, I stole my son away from all the grandparents and aunts and put him to bed myself. I fed him his bottle (yes, we’re still doing that), read him his stories and then held him in my arms.
Amazingly — miraculously — he snuggled in to me for the first time in ages and looked up into my eyes. I told him how proud I am of him, how much he’s changed my life and how he is my very favorite person on the face of this earth. I thanked him for being the best baby I could have ever dreamed of. I told him that I love him so, so, so, so, so very much.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sung him the words that hang on the wall of his nursery, the words I sung to him long ago when he was so tiny, and so awake in the middle of the night.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
It was the best birthday present he could ever have given me.
The next day, we celebrated his first year with a small group of family and friends, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Even though the weather thwarted the picturesque outdoor event I had planned, the party was perfect and joyful. Hudson enjoyed every minute of it and I only cried once, when the birthday candles flickered brightly and everyone joined together to sing “Happy Birthday” to my sweet boy.
Today, I’m coming around to the idea that my baby is growing up. In the grand scheme of things, he’s still very small, and we have a long journey ahead. Maybe it’s a blessing that he snuggles with me so infrequently, for it means so much when he throws his arms around me with the ferocious love the Wild Things had for Max.
I’ll eat you up, I love you so!
And every day, there are those moments when he looks over his shoulder to make sure I’m still there, watching. Of course, I always am.
He won’t always be my baby. But he’ll always be my boy. I can’t express how thankful I am for that one, beautiful thing.
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Please enjoy a few photos from Hudson’s birthday party, which was inspired by the beautiful illustrations of Richard Scarry. Special thanks to my talented friend Elizabeth, mom to Millie and genius behind Bella Originals, for sharing her gorgeous photographs!