I rushed through the door of my son’s daycare, carrying his backpack in one arm and him in the other. I had about five minutes to drop him off before running to a meeting with a client.
“Young man,” a staff member at the front desk said sternly, looking at my preschooler, “You’re old enough to walk. What do you think you’re doing, making your mom carry you?”
I turned a deep shade of red. While I was used to hearing this reprimand (really directed at me and not my son), it still stung a little each time. Searching through my usual list of excuses, I apologetically mumbled, “He just woke up.”
The fact is I run into this situation a lot. My 3-year-old is big for his age, and when people see us walking along the street or racing through the halls, his 40-pound mass wrapped in my arms, I get stares and occasional comments. They tend to range from the seemingly benign “Well, you’ve got your hands full” to “you’re going to hurt your back” to the ever-judgmental “Don’t you think he’s old enough to walk?”
Yes, my son is old enough to walk. In fact, he usually does. But when he asks me to carry him, I will almost every time.
When I’m questioned, I find myself offering excuses to justify the “big boy” in my arms: “He’s tired.” “He’s been sick.” “He has a boo-boo.” ‘He’s feeling fussy right now.” But no more. The truth is, I’m happy to carry my little guy for as long as I can. And here’s why.
Soon I won’t be able to. I still remember when I stopped carrying my daughter. She was three and I was pregnant. Carrying her became too difficult and I was forced to stop. By the time my son was no longer an infant in my arms, my daughter had grown too heavy to lift. We do plenty of snuggling on the couch when watching TV or in her bed when reading stories, but never again will I feel her weight in my arms as we move down the street, her cheek against mine, her soft hair brushing against my skin. Likewise, I know soon, despite my best efforts to lift my son, gravity will have other ideas. I’m relishing each moment of closeness while I can.
Soon he won’t want me to. My son is a little explorer, and rarely likes to be still. The reality is that he’s asking to be carried less and less. And so, when he looks up at me, raises his little arms, and says “Up!” I seize the opportunity whenever I can. Because these moments are becoming less frequent as he rightfully grows more curious about his world, and leaves my side to investigate a tree or run down the sidewalk. Soon enough he’ll have little interest in being carried, which both makes me proud and breaks my heart.
Sometimes I have no choice. I’m a work-at-home mom with two kids. Every second of my day is accounted for. My son only goes to daycare in the mornings, and I need every second of that time to work. I can’t drop him off ten minutes late because he decided to explore a rock between the parking lot and the door, or miss a client phone call because he decided to stage a sit-in over having turkey instead of ham in his lunch box. Likewise, my daughter can’t be late to the bus stop because my son is busy investigating a puddle. Yes, I know I’m missing some teachable moments here. But I’d rather carry him from point A to point B and miss an occasional life lesson than miss a job because I didn’t hand in an assignment on time.
Soon this phase will be over. My kids are three and seven. We’re not planning on having any more. So my son is my last baby… and is quickly growing into a little boy. When I pick him up and carry him in my arms, I’m reminded for a brief moment of that feeling of holding him as a newborn, of that unbreakable connection that comes and then is gone forever. Once this stage is over, that’s it.
I’m aware that my son is growing up, and the time to let go is just around the corner. In many ways, I’m looking forward to the many new activities we’ll be able to do when he’s a little older. But, just the same, I’ll miss his baby years fiercely. With every day that goes by, they slip away a little further. I plan on holding on as long as I can.
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