the last day of one

It’s time to switch him to 1%.

The doctor’s words echo in my ear as I stand in the cold rush of the open fridge door, shaking the half-empty carton of whole milk. It is the last one we will buy.

. . .

We’re down to six diapers in each load, twice a week. Barely worth washing, but we remind ourselves we can’t complain about a child who trains himself before two.

Stacks of diapers now sit unused on the top shelf of his closet, crammed next to tubs of tiny onesies and plastic bottles.

Every time I pull open the door to stash another neglected toy or outgrown outfit, I try not to wonder when – if – we’ll pull them out again.

What matters is this one is growing.

. . .

May I sit on your lap, please? He toddles over with a grin and I cannot resist a full sentence. So I scoop him up and he smiles while I write.

Seconds later he shoves off in search of something more exciting.

He’s always leaving.

. . .

My husband hauls the changing table down from upstairs. It sits awkward and out of place in the front hallway.

“Should we give it away?” he asks as the kids run around us, shrieking at some game they’ve invented. “We still have the other one.”

“Not now,” I shake my head. “I know it makes no sense, but will you just stick it in the basement? I can’t get rid of it yet.”

He nods.

Now it stares at me every time I slip by the furnace room, empty and alone.

. . .

Nostalgia fills thick August air as the leaves start to yellow and the school buses zip back through the neighborhood, practicing their routes.

I wonder why I am not sad at all about the prospect of preschool starting again, why all the Facebook photos of first days don’t tug at my heartstrings like they usually do. Is it because our oldest is used to school now, that he’s excited to go back, that summer camp’s thrill proved the tears at drop off are now behind us?

No, I realize quietly one afternoon. I am not sad about his back-to-school because I am already sad about his brother’s farewell to babyhood.

My heart is too full.

Of course I know part of this is the loss, the sadness that there is not another baby on the way, to take his place on the changing table, in the high chair, in the clothes that continue to shrink on his lengthening limbs.

But my tug at his turning two started much earlier, when I realized how his own babyhood was whizzing past me. I feel the flow of time’s current quicker with this second child, and I don’t know what comes next.

Maybe my sadness at his turning two – still such a wee small number! why such worry? – comes at my having to release him into this inbetweenness.

Where there is no quick hug and wave at school drop-off, but we still have to learn to say goodbye each day. Where there is no neat curriculum for how the next year will unfold, but he still needs to learn leaps and bounds before my eyes. Where we will both have to muddle through uncertainty and growth and letting go.

Maybe the only spiritual practice is learning to let go. Of our false sense of control, of our preconceived notions of how the world should work, of the fear that change will change us.

All around me is proof. He is no longer a baby.

But God, this is hard to let go.

. . .

Today is the last day of one, the slender straight line of one.

Tomorrow will bring two’s curve and sharp base, the race towards presents and cake and becoming something – someone – bigger.

Today I hold him close and let him go. Hold him close and let him go.

All I can do is keep practicing.

“That moment at the dorm is implied at the kindergarten door, at the gates of summer camp, at every ritual of parting and independence. But it comes as surprising as a thief, taking what you value most…The experience is natural and common. And still planets are thrown off their axes.”

Michael Gerson, Washington Post: “Saying goodbye to my child, the youngster

9 thoughts on “the last day of one

  1. Watching all my former students grow up (and sometimes become too cool for me), there is a trade-off that maybe doesn’t sound as great in slow motion as it looks over the span of many years in a long-shot: you get to watch all the little moments of these guys growing up to become whoever they will be.

    True story:

    My first word was “button.” I am the crafty/sewing/knitting creative one.

    My sister’s first word was “cookie.” She runs a bakery out of her house in spare moments.

    The small moments matter, and are very precious, but they are a small part of a life that is just that much more precious.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t measure and chart the tiny things of my own baby niece’s life in tiny measure as well (this week…she claps).

  2. It’s harder in some ways when you are the caregiver. Parents lose the baby but get to keep the boy our girl he or she becomes. I’m doing well by my current “boss” (he turned 2 in February). He’s learning so many things, and we have such fun days together. I came to his family when he was just seven months old. The hard part is knowing, like so many children before him, when he goes away to school he’ll be gone from my life. There have been so many days in the past two years when his sunshiney personality was enough to give me courage to get up in the morning. I love him as much as anyone can, and looking at things now? I have a few months, but our days together are numbered. So blessed for each day we’ve had together though, and so blessed for every day yet to come. I’ve been doing this for 21 years. It never gets easier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *