There was a time when my children were always underfoot. I couldn’t finish a meal or take a shower without interruption, let alone read a book or binge watch anything. For years, my time was not my own. Now it is–even when my kids are home.
Now I can watch TV for hours–any show I want to–not just Little Bear or Animal Planet. I can finish an entire book in a matter of days, not weeks. When I tidy my living room, it stays tidy. And I can eat ice-cream anytime I want without hiding in my closet. It’s pretty great.
I knew the years were passing but still where are my babies?
I just have one question. Where did my babies go?
They have all been big for years. Still, I automatically turn my head when I hear a child call “Mama!” in the grocery store? To this day, I get excited at the sight of a backhoe. And I still feel that familiar ache in my breasts when I hear a baby cry.
Seriously, how is it possible that after years of little feet tiptoeing into our room and tiny bodies slipping in between us, my husband and I now sleep alone every single night? Why is my refrigerator adorned with basketball schedules, permission slips to sign, and shopping lists and not stick figure drawings and finger-painted masterpieces?
Now I wake up each morning to the shrill beeping of my phone, not to juicy kisses on my eyelids. I stumble out of bed, pour myself a cup of coffee and sit with it–alone. Only the dog wants to cuddle, and he doesn’t pat my cheek when I scoop him up or fit snugly between my lap and chin.
On the other hand, if it weren’t for the dog, I would go all day, until my husband gets home, without any cuddles. I haven’t read Make Way for Ducklings in ages or kissed a boo boo or slipped ever-so-quietly out from underneath a sleeping toddler.
The speed with which time passes is mind-boggling
Where is that little boy with the toy hammer and plastic drill set who wanted to grow up to be a “worker man?” Where is the curly-haired little girl who couldn’t go to sleep unless she was holding “her favorite hand” (my left one held close to her cheek)? Where are my little ones?
The towheaded toddler in snow boots and fairy wings and the redheaded, dimpled ball of fire who hunted toads in our backyard like it was his job. Why has the swingset stood empty for years and the only prints on my patio door are from the dog’s nose?
Honestly, the speed with which my days went from corralling and cuddling little ones to watching them drive away and praying they get home in one piece is dizzying. Sometimes it’s even disorienting. I look around at empty bedrooms and see the photos of these young adults on my walls, and I wonder where on earth the time went. How did it go so quickly? And where did my babies go?
Of course, I can never get those years back, and I wouldn’t want to, not really. But fortunately, when I miss my babies, I don’t have to look for long because somehow, even though they have jobs or go to college or high school, even though they all drive cars and can cook their own meals, even though they are all grown or nearly grown, I can still catch glimpses of my babies.
I can still see my babies in these grown kids
When my grown son stops by on his lunch hour and tells me about his latest home improvement project, sometimes I can still see his four-year-old self, overalls and no shirt, hammering away on a block of wood or busily constructing, complete with sound effects, an entire city in the sandbox.
When my daughter comes home from college, tired and ready for a break, and we snuggle up on the couch to watch a movie, I can remember her little body tucked in close, just beginning to relax as her busy day gave way to sleep.
When my towheaded toddler, now in her second year of college, shows off a new outfit or shows us her latest art project, I remember my little artist, covered in finger paint, fairy wings flapping or cape trailing behind her, running through the yard after her little brother.
And the baby of my babies? His smile is exactly as it always has been, full of joy and a little mischief. I will probably always see the baby in this one.
It’s a look of surprise, the turn of a head. It’s in a frantic shout of “Mama!” when they can’t find something important. It’s watching them together, laughing, teasing, sometimes fighting.
When I kiss them goodnight or hug them good morning. When I watch them sleep. These are the times that I don’t have to ask, “Where did my babies go?” Because they are right here with me, just like always. Watching my children grow up has been a gift. Seeing the babies they were in the adults they are becoming is an even greater one.
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