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When Your Baby Becomes a Kid

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

The baby fat is turning into muscle now, but there’s still enough chub in his cheeks to get in a good squeeze. He understands 100 percent of what I’m saying, even when he chooses not to listen. A year and a half ago he wasn’t even walking yet; now he’s jumping off diving boards in the deep end of pools and climbing on the highest points of jungle gyms at the park. He knows every word to Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” and loves “Kerry” [Katy] Perry songs, which is always what he chooses when we play Wii’s “Just Dance 3.”

This is unquestionably the easiest, and most fun, age to parent so far (he’ll be three this month), but the part that kills me? The realization that my son isn’t a baby anymore. It’s been a tough transition for me, especially going through secondary infertility and not knowing when—or if—I’ll be lucky enough to have another kid. I know I haven’t taken a single moment of his baby-hood for granted, and lord knows I captured it all in photos and videos (as anyone who follows me on Facebook can attest). But sometimes I wish I could go back in time, and do it all over again. The newborn stage, his infant months, the sleepless nights, that great baby smell. The newness of it all. Every sweet, innocent moment of his life has been the best moment of mine.

I posted this conversation we had on Facebook the other day—it’s become a common conversation at the end of our day when we can finally catch up.

Preston: “So, how was work today?”

Me: “Good, but work is work, ya know?”

Preston: “Did you do circle time?”

Me: “Yes, but they’re called meetings…”

He asks me every night how work is, because I ask him every day how school is. During dinner, he asks me if I want a bite of his food: “I promise, you’ll like it,” he says. Because that’s what I always say to him.

He turns off lights when he leaves rooms (I’m anal about this); he closes bedroom and closet doors; he puts his own shoes away, without me saying a word. When he’s trying to interrupt our conversations, he always (always) says, “Excuuuse meee?”

Every time I say “good job!” about even the smallest thing, he says, “thanks,” very casually. When I ask him who the most handsome boy in the world is, without skipping a beat he says, “Meeee!”

An "I love you" always gets an "I love you" back. Tonight he told me he missed me too.

Believe me, he’s not perfect. He says bad words more than I’d like to admit, but they’re always in context of the situation. I mean, who doesn’t let out a “dammit” once in a while when they can’t get a toy to work?

Recently we were at our nephew’s bar mitzvah—it was an all-day affair, with dozens of little kids running rampant through the synagogue, which is what little kids do during these kinds of services. And my little kid—the baby of the group—was right in the mix with all of them. When it came time for lunch, Preston planted himself at the kid’s table.

“Want Mommy to sit with you?” I asked. He elbowed me away, like I was cramping his style.

“Mommy, you go over there,” he said, pointing to nowhere in particular, just as long as it was not next to him. “I want to sit with the kids.”

It made me proud, but broke my heart. My little guy is so independent now. It might be the easiest age to parent so far, but I miss the days when he needed me more. At least I still hold the healing power of his boo-boos with my kiss, so I guess that counts for something.

When did you realize your kid was no longer a baby? Do you think the transition is easier when you know you’re having more than one? Preston's third birthday party is coming up, it'll be the first birthday he'll totally get what's going on. I just hope he doesn't blow me off for his friends.

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