Bye, bye, baby

As my youngest child enters full-day kindergarten, hits up birthday parties galore and masters the art of printing, I’m faced with the cold realization that the baby and toddler years are behind me, this time for good.

Pink baby goods and blank note hanging on the clotheslineMy youngest child turned four last November. Four.

For some reason, I find this number, this age, staggering. It seems so grown up, all of a sudden.

It’s as if, with the flick of a switch, my baby, the youngest of three, has entered a whole new stage, which I suppose she has. She’s a school aged child; not a toddler, not a baby. And it’s surreal.

Chloe had been a happy surprise, coming along when I was 30, and fairly well-established in life and my career, with two older children who were very independent.

But when she was born, I was happy to hit the pause button on my frantic life and focus intensely on mothering a newborn: breastfeeding, making food from scratch, and getting to experience, once again, those delicious days of nurturing an infant and the pure glee of playing and discovering with a bouncing, exuberant toddler.

I felt so lucky to have another chance, and I sensed it was crucial to enjoy and make the most out of every moment with this new, final baby – and I did. But somehow, the time still flew by way too quickly.

She started school this September, and I marked the occasion by Instagramming an old photo of us, when she was about three months old. I captioned the photo: “She started junior kindergarten today, and while I’m proud and all, I really miss the days when we had nothing to do but hang out together all day.” I added the hashtag #wistful.

A distinct pattern has emerged in my social media posts; maybe just a whiff of desperate, a bit lonely, and very classic mom in tone.

To commemorate Chloe’s fourth birthday, I Instagrammed another old photo, this one of her in hospital, shortly after her birth. She was wearing the sweetest little green hat, her first hat ever. But there, I’m choking up again.

At the still-tender age of four, Chloe is more fun than ever: she’s smart, sassy, adorable, sensitive and kind, possessing pretty much all the great qualities I hoped for. She’s turned out wonderfully and I’m still in awe as I watch her hit a range of new milestones. They’ve just come alarmingly quickly.

I’m so grateful for the last go-round with the baby stage, and I am definitely in a kind of mourning for those precious days. I’m sure there are a variety of reasons for this that involve not only Chloe’s rapid development, but my own neuroses as well, not least that the end of baby-making is a super strong marker of the aging process, and of course, a reminder of the cycle of life.

The other day, I actually found my thoughts wandering to grandparenting, and not in a bad way.

I felt a distinct surge of excitement as in my mind’s eye, I saw myself, once again cradling a small baby, purely and utterly joyful. But in this reverie, the baby is my grandchild.

Almost involuntarily, I whispered to myself, “I can’t wait.” Because I really can’t.