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Category Archives: Children

What Ben Affleck Knows About Companionate Love

Loving family

The day we became a family

Last night, as I was wiping the kitchen counters clean, my husband hugged me from behind and whispered in my ear, “you smell like … cleaning products.”

Things change once you have kids, that’s for sure.

My husband and I know this well, and after the comments he made in his Oscar acceptance speech, I’m willing to assume Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner know it too.

I, for one, loved Ben’s speech, in which he acknowledged that marriage requires effort and thanked his wife for doing “the best kind of work” with him for “10 Christmases.” Yet, I was disappointed to learn that the Twitter sphere has been widely panning him for his honesty.

We gluttonously devour pictures of our celebrity idols caught being “real”: schlepping groceries or going without a mask of professionally applied makeup. But when things get too real — when they admit that some parts of their lives are as complicated and unglamorous as ours — we’re disillusioned by the idea of them having something other than the fairy tale romance we imagined.

The truth is that no one does. Studies show even the most drunken, heady kind of love fades after an average period of about two years. And, the idea that love is a drug is more than just sappy songwriting: as researchers Arthur Aron, PhD and Sean Mackey, MD, PhD reported to WebMD, “feelings of romantic love affect the brain in the same way drugs like cocaine or powerful pain relievers do.”

When you look at it that way, it’s no surprise that passionate, new love doesn’t last. In order for a marriage to succeed, couples have to feel more than just love for each other.

Several years back, Time Magazine ran a fascinating article on the science behind love. In “The Science of Romance: Why We Love,” Jeffrey Kluger points out that couples in committed relationships must “pass beyond … the thrill of early love and into what’s known as companionate love.”

Companionate love. Doesn’t sound too thrilling, does it? And yet, there’s something really lovely about that term.

Companionate love is the stuff of 50-year anniversaries, of those elderly men who still see a beautiful young bride when they look at their aging wives. It’s the bond that keeps us together through the ups and downs of marriage, through the trials of raising children and as our physical attractiveness inevitably fades.

Admittedly, my husband and I weren’t the most exciting people before our son came along, so you can imagine how glamorous our lives are now. As a stay-at-home mom, my brand of stress is a quiet, droning kind that stems from the pressure of constant vigilance. My husband is in his first years of a commission-only career; his days are long and rushed, and he comes home wired and exhausted at the same time.

He wears a suit. I wear sweatpants. It can be hard for us to relate to each other sometimes, and it’s been a long, long time since the hazy days of giddy, new love.

I couldn’t do what he does. He tells me he couldn’t do what I do. Therein we find the most important component of our marriage: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

We each have to work hard to make our household run. It’s not sexy, it’s not exciting, and it is indeed work. It’s the basis of companionate love.

For my part, I try to resist the urge to thrust our son into my husband’s arms or regale him with a story about poop just after he’s walked through the door. I give him a few minutes to change his clothes and take a few deep breaths. I try to have put something together for dinner and to have changed out of my depression robe by the time he gets home.

For his part, he greets each member of the household with a kiss and asks about my day, even though my response usually isn’t very interesting. He sits down in front of our son’s highchair and the dogs run to put their heads in his lap. He lets out a deep sigh, exhaling all the pressure and frustration from his day.

“I love you, wee man,” he says to our son. And I see him start to relax.

As for our connection as man and wife? Strangely, our son has been the best thing that ever happened to our marriage. He gives us a shared purpose, a higher calling, a source of humor and awe in every day.

We lie in bed and find ourselves at a loss for the words to describe how we feel about our son.

He’s … awesome. He’s just so … awesome, isn’t he?, says one of us.  

I know just what you mean, says the other.

This may not be the version of romance we want from our movie stars. It isn’t sexy or exciting; it isn’t the stuff of fairy tales. But if you look closely, there’s something profoundly beautiful in the simple, ordinary pursuit of raising a family with your life’s companion.

Companionate love may not make it into the movies, but it made it onstage this year at the Oscars. And that’s not too shabby at all.

The Taming of the Tot

Toddler Tornado

Nap? Who needs a nap? Let’s take the sheet off the mattress instead!

Goodbye, coos and gurgles and slow, long-lashed blinks. Hello, screams and kicks and flailing arms.

People, we have a toddler.

It seemed to happen overnight. One day we were happily playing in a confined space; the next day my sweet little boy was furiously trying to squeeze out the front door while I wrestled a large package over the step — and dissolving into a fit of rage when I finally managed to wrangle him back inside. Where did this miniature Hulk, erupting with fury and superhuman strength, come from all of a sudden?

But that’s the catch when it comes to parenting: things change. Things change when you don’t want them to; things change when you do. Most of all, things change just as soon as you finally start to figure them out.

Toddlers don’t exactly give you a heads up when one stage is ending and another is on the horizon. Toddlers just let you know when they’ve had it with something, once and for all. Loudly. Yes, my son’s transformation into a willful toddler was sudden, but I see now it had been coming for some time and I just didn’t recognize the signs.

As it turns out, that’s lesson number one in dealing with a toddler: spot the signs. Hunger, thirst and the general “wanting” of something are predictable warning signs, but my son’s most reliable freakout trigger is fatigue. With all the running and climbing and hiding spatulas in the dog food container, he gets overwhelmed easily these days. I’ve found if I take him back to his room for a book and a little quiet time before he gets too frazzled, we all benefit. (So far, that’s been working well, but I expect it’ll change soon.)

Another saving grace for me has been Dr. Harvey Karp’s “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” recommended to me by a mom in my play group. I was a huge fan of Dr. Karp’s first book, “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” so I eagerly requested the follow-up publication from my local library.

Okay, I may have driven an hour and a half to get a copy from the only library location that had the book in stock rather than waiting just a couple days for it to be returned to my branch. Desperate times, friends. Desperate times.

With book in hand, I set about to regain control of my household. Dr. Karp’s tactics are a little unconventional (read, embarrassing), but I was sold after the first day of trying his methods. Basically, he encourages parents to get down on their child’s level and talk like a deaf caveperson in order to break through the chaos of a toddler temper tantrum.

“MAD! Hudson MAD! He want more cheddar bunnies!! Cheddar bunnies gone. HE MAD!!”

I know, right? Believe me, it’s even worse when you’re trying to actually talk this way to a screaming, red-faced terror thrashing around in a high chair.

But the strange thing? It works.

The reasoning is that when toddlers get upset, we have to break down our communication to its most basic form and then match their intensity by getting on their level and speaking loudly. All this helps them feel understood and heard, which is usually the only thing that will get them to break out of a fit.

The first time I tried it, Hudson had started to freak out over something during mealtime. I couldn’t figure out what he wanted and he was thrashing about wildly, sure to hit his head on something any minute. I was standing over top of him while he cried and flailed, saying things like, “What is it? What do you want? Do you want some more milk? Do you want to get down? Look! Here’s your ball! BALL!! What is it you want???”

Suddenly, I saw things from his perspective: he’s small; I’m big. I’m throwing suggestions at him during the height of his anguish. I’m trying to distract him from feelings that are real to him.

So, I flipped the script. I squatted down so I was below him, looked him in the eye and said loudly, “You’re mad! You are SO MAD! I hear you!”

Amazingly — miraculously — he stopped. I stopped too out of total shock, but then quickly remembered myself and kept going. As he calmed down, I was able to expand my vocabulary to help him show me what he wanted and we got out of the situation without either one of us banging our heads on the wall.

If you think about it, a tantrum is, at its core, an incredibly frustrated response to a lack of control over something. Talking to a toddler in this crazy way helps them see that you get it. You’re listening. You’re on their side. That understanding paves the way for trust, and trust paves the way for communication. Before you know it, you’re making this parenting business look something akin to easy.

Then your son spots the cheddar bunnies on a shelf at Whole Foods. You look in your wallet to find that your credit card slipped out in the car.

CHEDDAR BUNNIES GONE! HUDSON MAD!

Ah, well. Tomorrow’s another day.

Raising a Man

The Law of Pizzaplicity
Lance Armstrong, you owe me an apology.

I’m trying to raise a man here, and you’re not helping.

Raising a human being is daunting enough, let alone nurturing a compassionate, expressive, confident boy. Now that I have a son and have started to tune in to some of the issues and trends that affect boys today, this task seems even harder.

This past summer, I was watching our female athletes — Missy Franklin, Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh and Gabby Douglas, to name just a few — kick ass in the 2012 Olympics. The program cut to commercial and a Nike ad came on featuring women discussing the obstacles they overcame in order to participate in sports. They spoke of being spit on and beaten up, insulted and dismissed, just because they wanted to play the sport they loved.

The ad and its message moved me to tears. In that moment, I felt thankful to be a woman in this time and in this place, and my heart swelled with feelings of hopefulness and pride.

The ad ended and — in an abrupt departure from the moving commentary on women’s rights — the screen shifted to three doofuses discussing “The Law of Pizzaplicity.” I found myself thinking, And … here’s what our boys have to aspire to.

Thanks to Oprah and Lifetime TV, we’re finally talking about the troubles facing our young women. Everywhere I look, I see strong, inspiring role models for our nation’s girls: Michelle Obama. Malala Yousafzai. Tina Fey. Hilary Clinton. Jodie Foster. Marissa Mayer. Lena Dunham. Betty White.

But what about our boys?

Lucky for us, my son is blessed with a strong male role model at home and in both of his grandfathers. But it scares me when I look at some of the men our society idolizes. Before long, my son will idolize them too.

So many of our boys’ role models showboat on the playing field; they lie, cheat and boast of accomplishments they did not earn. They objectify women and tear down people and ideas that scare them. They put monetary and political success before their families. And, possibly most concerning, they’re portrayed in TV and movies as lazy, helpless idiots while their competent female counterparts shake their heads and smile condescendingly.

Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. David Petraeus. Brett Favre. Chris Brown. Roger Clemens. John Edwards. Mel Gibson.

Granted, there are plenty of women out there doing harm, as well: Honey Boo Boo’s mom, those harpies on “Dance Moms,” Ann Coulter, Lindsay Lohan. Even Courtney Cox has let our nation’s girls down now that she’s had more plastic surgery than Chandler Bing’s dad.

The difference is that society has shined its collective light on the plight of our young women, and the increase in awareness seems to be working: According to the Pew Research Center, not only do women greatly outnumber men in college enrollment and completion, but women also have a more positive view of the value of education. This disparity is only projected to increase substantially in future years.

And if we can’t agree there’s reason to worry about our boys in light of the frightening increase in school shootings we’ve seen, I don’t know what it will take. Every single one of these horrific events has been perpetrated by a man. Every. Single. One.

When it comes to our boys, we’re turning a blind eye to some disturbing trends: violent behavior, emotional immaturity, low self-esteem. According to Dr. William Pollack, author of “Real Boys”:

“Many boys today are struggling either silently, with low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness and isolation, or publicly, by acting out feelings of emotional and social disconnection through anger and acts of violence against themselves or their friends and families. While academic performance and self-esteem are low, the rates of suicide and depression are on the rise.”

As a society, we need to stop championing athletes who never grow up, celebrities who debase women or minorities, politicians who lie with no ramifications. We need to agree that a change in how women are portrayed in movies and on TV doesn’t have to come at the expense of men. We need to speak out against a company who rewards an 18-year-old kid for skipping college and entering the NBA draft with an endorsement deal worth over $90 million.

Perhaps, if we start to change what we value, we can stem the tide of male role models falling from grace. Lance Armstrong is not solely to blame. Nor is Tiger Woods or our most recent athlete to publicly embarrass himself, Manti Te’o, whose father recently defended his son’s poor judgment by saying, “He’s not a liar, he’s a kid. He’s a 21-year-old kid trying to be a man.”

Soon enough, my boy — my precious baby boy — will be on his own journey toward “trying to be a man.” I see how closely he watches his dad. I know that, in time, he’ll widen his idolatry to include the athletes and celebrities we hold up as heroes, but who are really just men. By that time, I hope our society will be doing better for him than we are now.

For the Teachers

er, Teacher, What Do You See?

I don’t want to talk about what happened.

I don’t want to talk about the boy who walked into a school last Friday morning. I don’t want to talk about his motive, or his mental state or his actions. I don’t want to talk about our gun control policies or how we stop the violence. Certainly, these discussions need to take place. But I’m no expert and — for me — now is not the time.

I want to talk about the teachers. Therein lays the hope in this deplorable, devastating crime.

I didn’t know what to say about any of this, and didn’t plan to write anything on this topic. But last night, when I let my son choose his bedtime story, he pulled “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” off the shelf. We snuggled in to the cozy chair in his room, and he began paging through the book while I located his pacifier and got comfortable in my spot. When I looked up, he had the book open to the page covered with the bright, colorful faces of a classroom full of children.

Children,
Children,
What do you see?

He quietly pointed to the face of a boy, and then moved his little finger around the page from girl to boy to girl to boy. My eyes welled with unexpected tears as I whispered, “Children. Those are children.”

Next, he moved backward through the book, and the Teacher’s warm, knowing face gazed up at us from the page.

Teacher,
Teacher,
What do you see?

I whispered through tears, “That is a teacher. She helps the children.”

It is a horror to think of what those children and teachers saw that day. But it is an inspiration to think of what those teachers did that day.

Our society is woefully remiss in celebrating the men and women who shape our children. We send our nation’s young to classrooms like the ones in Sandy Hook every day, and in each one, there is an underpaid teacher pulling off a minor miracle. These people inspire creativity and curiosity in our kids while managing disputes, confiscating cell phones and administering discipline. It is truly amazing what they do.

Today, I want to talk about those heroic teachers who shielded the children from harm with their very bodies. I want to thank those who locked their classroom doors, kept calm and did all they could to keep their students safe.

Would I have thought to read to the children to soothe them? Would I have been able to keep my voice even as gunshots echoed through the halls? Would I have had the foresight to tell them I loved them in case those were the last words they heard? I doubt it.

At least for these first few days, let’s talk only about the teachers and the kids. Let’s remember them, honor them and mourn their too-soon departure. Let’s send our love to those who survived this horrific incident and turn off the TV so the media trucks will leave Sandy Hook. Let’s switch the channel when we see a schoolchild being interviewed, whether their parent allows it or not.

Let’s thank our teachers every chance we get.

Until I’m better able to wrap my head around the immense tragedy that happened last Friday, I will focus on the stories of heroism and hope. I will be thankful for the parents who saw their children come home unharmed and the teachers who made their school proud.

As for the incredible grief I feel for those parents whose children did not come home: I’m not yet ready to face it. It’s too awful to think about the precious babies who didn’t know such horror existed until they saw it. I’ll save that for another day.

Today is for the teachers.

Thank you.

The Best Parenting Advice I’ve Received

Outside Playtime

Enjoying a little time out of the house

I know, I know: talking about the best parenting advice I’ve received is like talking about the best colonoscopy I’ve gotten. Who really likes getting parenting advice? Who is truly helped by the lady in line at the grocery store who helpfully informs you that your child shouldn’t be using a pacifier?

Yet, I’ve been given some parenting advice — some from friends, some from family members and some from perfect strangers — that’s really helped.

Here are some of the gems I’ve collected along the way:

1. Take Care of Yourself First

I know how this sounds, and I know how hard it is to do. When you hear that heart-wrenching cry, you levitate out of your chair like Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters and arrive at your baby’s crib with no memory of how you got there.

But it’s not a bad idea to take a moment for yourself before you run to your baby. I didn’t do a good job of taking care of myself when my son was very small. I remember rarely napping during the day and being hungry all the time.

First, I started having dizzy spells, which is scary when you have a baby in your arms most of the time. And then, my milk supply began to drop off rapidly. It scared the crap out of me, and I had an epiphany:

You can’t take care of this baby unless you take care of yourself first.

I started fixing myself a one-handed snack while holding my hungry son so I could feed myself while I was feeding him. I forced myself to nap a little more and drink more water, even if that meant I had to take the time to fill my glass while the baby cried. When you have a baby, taking care of yourself is a selfless — and necessary — act.

2. Leave the House Every Day

It was my second trip to the lactation center. Things weren’t going perfectly, and I was more than a little frustrated. And then, in walked an angel who gave me not one, but two indispensable pieces of advice, both of which I’ve included on this list:

Leave the house every day, even if it’s just to walk down the street.

She was so right. I’ll admit, some days, I only make it to the backyard of my house. But even just breathing a little fresh air seems to restore my sanity and makes everything seem a little easier.

3. It’s Not You, It’s Your Baby

Okay, not necessarily. But it could be. During my visit to the lactation center, I confided to the consultant that breastfeeding had been pretty challenging. And then, she said something that freed me from my guilt:

You know, it might not be you. It might be him.

That hit me like a brick on the head. I had never considered any scenario where my son was less than perfect! But acknowledging that she might be right about that allowed me to say, who cares if we’re not perfect at this?

So many things in parenting are a team effort, and just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you have to take all the responsibility for any failure.

Although it got easier, breastfeeding was a challenge every single day until I finally weaned my son, and it was still worth it. And now, when I think back to our breastfeeding days, I don’t think of the struggles; I think of those early mornings when the sun streamed through the window and I sat in a comfy chair with my son. My heart aches a bit, and I long for those days gone by. (But only for a moment.)

4. Pull a Toy Switcheroo

I was in a toy store with my mom perusing birthday gift options for my son, and as we were ooo-ing and aww-ing over all the new toys, a shop worker generously offered this wonderful advice:

You don’t need to buy a bunch of toys — just put half your child’s toys in the closet, and then switch them out with the other half two weeks later.

So I tried it, and when I got the old toys out two weeks after having stashed them away, I was shocked. My son’s response was kind of like how I feel each time I rediscover Gouda cheese: It’s cheese that tastes like bacon! Why don’t I buy this ALL THE TIME?

In addition to my son showing renewed enthusiasm for his old toys, I was amazed to see how much he had progressed in two short weeks. Instead of banging his toy piano on the ground, he sat and pressed the keys one by one. Entertaining for him, rewarding for me and economical for all of us.

5. Don’t Wish Away Even the Tough Moments; They’ll be Gone Before You Know It

This piece of advice came from one of my most amazing mom friends. I’ve come back to her words so many times since my son was born, often in the midst of one of those “tough moments.” Every time I think of this, it calms me down and gives me the strength to shrug off whatever challenge I’m facing.

In just one short year, I’ve found my friend to be so, so right. So many moments, good and bad, are indeed gone before you know it. No matter how many people tell you the time will fly, you’re never prepared for just how true it is. The good stuff, the bad stuff: it’s all part of the wild ride. And in its own way, it’s all good stuff.

Yes, there were those nasty early diaper blowouts that you thought you’d never in a million years miss. And then you find one of your son’s tiny newborn diapers. You hold it close to your heart, remembering when he was so little and helpless and smelly and sweet.

There were those days when you had to change your baby’s outfit six times because he spit up heroically each time you wrangled him into new clothes. And then one day you pack away those tiny outfits that no longer fit. You long for the days when you dressed him in precious outfits that only a tiny baby wouldn’t look ridiculous wearing, and you find a few of your tears make their way into that plastic bin.

There were those 4 am wake up calls when your baby cried out for you, and you stumbled to his bedside, wishing you weren’t the only person able to feed him. And then he starts to not need you as much as he used to, and you long for the days when you were his everything.

So please, trust me. Don’t wish away the tough moments. Don’t long too much for the next stage or the next milestone. It will all come and go so fast. In the meantime, hold your baby close, breathe in the smell of his tiny head and relish in the moment — it will be gone soon enough.

Hail to the “Working Dad”

Dad and Baby

My husband, doing his other full-time job

Last Friday night, after a long week of work, my husband walked through the door carrying these:

Flowers for Mom

“Hon! Wow!” I said. “Flowers for me on your birthday?”

“Oh yeah,” he said with a tired smile. “I guess I forgot.”

Granted, his birthday was not technically for a couple more days, but, still. I couldn’t help but be struck by the selflessness of his gesture — and how hectic his week must have been to make him forget his impending birthday.

I don’t write much about dads on this blog. But then I read Ken Gordon’s article, “Am I a Working Dad?” and started to wonder, why not?

Working Dad. That’s a new one. It sounds funny coming off the tongue, but Ken has a point: Why is the term “working mom” reserved so exclusively for women?

There’s a part of me that wants to safeguard this term for women. Despite a study that finds doing household chores actually makes men happier, women still do more of the (unpaid) work at home. Not to mention, women are still being compensated at a paltry 77 cents per dollar for the same work done by their male counterparts in the workplace.

However, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, men devote more time doing paid work outside the home, and most still contribute to the household chores. As a result, the total amount of work done by each partner in the average household is actually not too unbalanced. I’ll admit: this was a surprise to me.

Additionally, according to “The New Male Mystique,” published by the Families and Work Institute, “men now experience more work-family conflict than women.” The report claims “although men live in a society where gender roles have become more egalitarian and where women contribute increasingly to family economic well-being, men have retained the ‘traditional male mystique’ — the pressure to be the primary financial providers for their families.”

I guess our men really do deserve a little more credit.

In my household, our roles are pretty traditional for the time being. My husband often jokes that it’s 1940 at our house (and bless him for not pointing out that the 1940 husband rarely had to bring home Chipotle for dinner). His career is extremely demanding and requires long hours, so I’m managing things at home pretty single-handedly. Or so I thought.

The “working dad” article changed my perspective a bit. It’s not 1940 in my house, and that’s not just because I’m absolutely hopeless at cooking a pot roast. Unlike the stereotypical 1940s dad, my husband doesn’t come home and read the newspaper over dinner while administering stern looks to the kids.

When my husband walks in the door, he flings his arms wide and cries, “Wee man!” The dogs wiggle around him, wagging their tails and vying for his attention. He pets the dogs, he kisses me on the cheek. And then, he turns his attention to his son. He makes goofy faces, he rolls on the floor, he plays peek-a-boo behind the flowers he brought home. At some point each evening, he kisses Hudson on the cheek and says, “I missed you today, buddy.”

He is a hands-on dad, and his efforts shouldn’t be diminished just because that’s not his full-time job.

Yes, I do most of the booger chasing around here, and I change the vast majority of diapers. I take Hudson to the pediatrician and clean the dogs’ ears and make sure everyone’s nails are clipped. It’s hard work, for sure. But my job wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for what my husband does each day.

Day in and day out, my husband rises before the sun, earlier than anyone else in the household. He feeds the dogs, makes his own breakfast and often plucks the baby from his crib to deposit him in bed with me, all before starting his professional day.

Ken Gordon writes that “every good contemporary parent is employed on many levels,” and he’s right. Working moms are on 24 hours a day. Stay-at-home moms are on 24 hours a day. And, nowadays, most dads are on 24 hours a day, too. Parenting is a full-time gig, whether you have another job to go to or not.

So, today, let’s hear it for the boys. Thank you: for listening to our fears, for rubbing our sore shoulders at the end of a long day, for drying while we wash. Thank you for sharing with us your fears, and for showing your sons it’s okay to be soft and vulnerable and in touch with your emotions.

Thank you for being our partners.

All hail the working dad! (And happy birthday to the one who lives in my house.)

Growing Away

Independent Baby

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.

But …

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.

* * * * * * * *

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!

Garland

This decorative garland featured a photo from each month of Hudson’s life, showing how much he’s grown in just one brief year

Party Table

The decor had to be adapted for an indoor party, but things turned out fairly well despite the change in plans

Birthday Presents

What a haul! Hudson is lucky to have so many wonderful people in his life

Caprese Bites

Comprised of fresh Buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes and a tiny sprig of basil, these cute caprese bites were masterfully put together by Hudson’s Aunt Stephanie and fit the apple-inspired theme well

Cupcake Tower

This homemade cupcake tower was a snap to make, thanks to a tutorial I found on Pinterest (click on the photo to follow the link)

Cupcakes

Organic carrot cake cupcakes were made from scratch by Hudson’s Aunt Abby

Apple Cupcakes

Guests also enjoyed vanilla wedding cake cupcakes designed to look like apples and also made by Aunt Abby

Birthday Cupcake Topper

Hudson enjoyed his very own individual carrot cake

Party Plates and Cups

Tiny signs scattered around the party furthered the vintage schoolhouse theme

Party Cups

These miniature clothespins were so cute, I tried to use them as many places as possible!

Party Nametags

Guests identified themselves as a city mouse or a country mouse by choosing the appropriate name tag

Baby Ball Pit

The ball pit was a big hit with kids of all ages

Pom Pom Garland

This homemade pom pom garland added another vintage touch

Party Favors

Goodie bags included goofy glasses, crayons, bubbles and a little thank you card

Baby First Birthday

Here I am, overcome by the beauty of the moment

Cake Face

Success! He likes it!

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