The baby of my family is 3, and he will never be 3 again.
He says “snuggling” like “snug-a-wing.” He calls plums “cwums,” hermit crabs “herbit crabs.”
He waves to birds and squirrels and pouts quietly when they don’t come sit and rest on his outstretched hands.
His feet don’t stink, and I don’t recoil at the thought of kissing them. I kiss them every chance I get.
He’s given up calling me “Mommy,” but every so often he lets a “Mama” slip out, and it makes my heart flutter.
Sometimes he needs so much from me, makes such frequent requests and demands, that I must do all I can to keep from screaming. I could throw a tantrum that would rival one of his own, I really could. But he still wants me near–wants me to be close physically, doesn’t push away hugs, doesn’t begrudgingly settle for the quickest kiss on his forehead like his older brothers do.
He can fit in my arms and wrap his legs around my waist, and I call him “my little koala bear.”
He is absolutely delighted by waking up in the morning. Tasting lollipops. Watching butterflies. Jumping over cracks in the sidewalk. Studying a line of marching ants.
He is not embarrassed by his own imagination.
He sings to himself while he plays.
He associates rain with puddle-jumping, snow with snowman-building.
He thinks that school sounds exciting, that homework seems like some exotic, wonderful treat.
This doesn’t last forever. It doesn’t even last that long. Even when the days seem interminable–interminable because they are long, desperately long. But the time it takes for a day to pass, and the time it takes for a little boy to get too big and too self-conscious to snuggle with his mother any longer, are two different sorts of time.
I’ll never have a 3-year-old again. God-willing. Vasectomy-willing.
I’ll always have a baby of the family. God-willing. Time-willing.
And the struggle is, I think, to ensure that my babying is a type of wistful-loving: not coddling, not spoiling, but a sort of reverence toward time’s passing, its embodiment in my child’s squishy (and increasingly not-so-squishy) toes.