Not daycare, not pre-school, not your first, second, third, or fourth birthday. Not even the first day back from maternity leave. None of those days stirred the type of emotional storm that hit me like a ton of bricks this week. The catalyst brewing this storm of emotion is the birthday that awaits you in just a few short days- your fifth birthday.
The young age of 5 means so much more than it sounds. It reduces me to a weeping mess unable to gain control of emotions because it is having to accept a plethora of things.
It is having to acknowledge that you are changing every day so much right now. It is the realization that certain everyday things are coming to an end. Like when I tried to lift you and place you into the shopping cart a few days ago and could barely get you off the ground. It’s the not being able to carry your sleeping body out of the car and lie you down in your bed. It’s having to respect the “I don’t want kisses” mantra (really, already?). It’s the end of being Mommy to you and now I’m just plain old “Mom”. It’s the knowing that this is likely the last time we can bring cupcakes and read a book to your class for your birthday. This means I will need to memorize the glee on your face when it’s taking place because I know you’ll be bursting at the seams with excitement. And honestly, I don’t know what’s worse-knowing this could be our last birthday visit to your classroom or that you want your dad to bring the cupcakes and read the book to the class on your birthday instead of me.
You will start Kindergarten in 8 short months. You are our last baby and we’re trying with every ounce to hold onto that before your “little” years are gone. Having gone through this once already with your older brother we know that it is definitely the age of many changes. Shifts in normal day to day interactions start to take place and before we know it, you won’t be considered little kid status anymore.
For the last year, your dad has a running joke that you don’t get to have anymore birthdays. This is of course because he is also sad that you are growing up. He knows what turning five and starting kindergarten means.
When your brother turned five, it was also a very emotional time. The week he started kindergarten, I cried like a baby (this is what becoming a mom did to me, I used to have difficulty crying, and now I cry rivers). I just had this strong sense that things were going to change once he went to elementary school. I remember calming myself with the thought that I had one more baby to go through all these stages again with.
But now you’re about to be five.
Being the second child means having to share the attention. This has made you an incredible sharer, extremely patient, smart, and unbelievably observant. It also means you get annoyed by us a lot because we’re always trying to pinch your cheeks, hug you, kiss you, cuddle you, etc.
But being the last child we’ll ever have means I’m of course questioning everything I did with you. I know we gave our undivided attention to your brother since he was the only one for 3 and a half years. So did I express that I love you enough during your infant and toddler years? Did I hug and kiss you enough? Did I chase and tickle you enough? Did I pay close enough attention to you when you most needed it? Because if I didn’t, it’s a bit late and the agony of not knowing if I did enough is really weighing on my mind. In fact, the more I think about it, the more of an insane person I become. I hope with all of my being that you felt the love my boy.
The other night, while I was lying in your bed reading to you, you were unusually tired and asked me to turn out the light. I stared at your face and in my head asked myself why the heck I often stare at the ceiling instead of your precious face during this nighttime ritual. As I started to drift off next to you, I felt your tiny hand land on my cheek. You patted my cheek and left your soft baby palm there, then you slipped your other hand into mine and fell asleep that way. This was a rare and gorgeous moment. It’s not often that we hold hands at bedtime and the last time I got a face pat as you were drifting off was when you were 3.
It felt as though you knew I was filled with worry. I searched your sleeping face. Silently through this beautiful gesture, I felt some reassurance and some serious love. And I felt really sad. Like really, really, really sad. I know I’m done having babies, but frankly, I wasn’t prepared for how hard the realization was going to be. There are emotions that just come out of nowhere.
In your mind, you’ve already graduated to I-can-do-and get-whatever-I-want-when-I-am-five; which you legit said the other day. Life moves onward and we should not stunt its growth no matter how hard it pulls on our hearts-obviously. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why humans have a memory. To frame in our minds moments that are most precious to us. Moments like the one last night; your small hand on my cheek and your other laced into mine. Hands that once fit only inside my palm.
Your life and future are going to be so much fun to watch and be a part of. So while one part of us sadly says goodbye to your little self, the other part of us embraces the awesome big kid you’ll be. You can expect to see a mix of strange face expressions from your parents that include smiles of enthusiastic encouragement on our mouths, yet tears of nostalgia in our eyes.
Happy birthday, my last baby.