A frequently heard refrain in the world of parenthood is “They grow up so fast.” It is a sentiment full of truth, sadness and pride. They do grow up fast. It is sad. Yet, it fills a parent with pride to watch their child grow.
Rafe will be 5 very soon, 14 short days in fact. Money is tight, but we are hoping to have a big party for him, it being a milestone birthday and all. Looking at him fills me with those two emotions. Sadness and Pride. Where has my baby gone? He is still sweet and cuddly. But everyday he needs me less. He is a pro with electronics. Computer? Playstation? Wii? TV? DVD player? i-phone? No problem. My husband and I argue over whether we should buy him a Nintendo DS or a Bike for his birthday. What an argument to have about a 5 year old, eh? Having two older siblings is wonderful for his independence and he is afraid of nothing. Which often leaves me, mommy, standing on the sidelines watching as he attempts some amazing feat that makes me cringe in terror. I stand by and grin, clapping enthusiastically and hugging him with vigour when he is triumphant. When he doesnt succeed, and indeed falls to the ground and skins a knee, there are the inevitable tears, but they are dry within seconds and usually he has gone off to try some other death defying task before I’ve even finished speaking those timeless words of comfort, “Don’t cry. Everything’s ok, Mommy’s here.”
Rafe is learning how to read and write. And yes, I’ve been there, done that. Yet, it seems so much more crystallized now. I feel as if his childhood is slipping through my fingers as I watch from the sidelines, cringing in terror. It makes me want to cling on so tightly. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is because I know he will be my last and these wonderful years of childhood innocence, for all my children, are so clearly numbered. Perhaps, it is because for the longest period of time since I became a mother, I have not been working. My life is here. With them. 24/7 I know them so much better than ever before. I don’t want to lose that and knowing that I will, one way or the other, makes me very sad.
He wrote his name a few days ago. On his grandpa’s birthday card. All. by. himself. No prompting, no handholding, no encouragement. He picked up the pen, grabbed the card, and wrote his name. Legibly. Yesterday we were walking into an autopart shop and he read a word on the sandwhich board out front. All. by. himself. No encouragement, no prompting. I’m not sure what was being advertised but the word was “fit”. And he said “That says, IT, F- IT, FIT, mommy!” And he was of course, right. I almost patronized him by saying “oh, yes, good job” without even looking. Thankfully, it was one of those increasingly rare moments, where I had the presence of mind to see what I was doing, chastise myself for patronising him and actually take a moment to look. What a wonderful moment. My baby, can read. And write. In a more sobering sign of his rapidly growing maturity, a week ago, when I had had a hard week, and a hard day and thought everyone was upstairs, I let down my guard and had a good sob in the kitchen. When I had finished and all was still, the kitchen door opened quietly and my sweet boy came in, gave me a hug and said “Everything is ok, mommy. Don’t cry. I’m here.” Which, of course, made me start blubbering all over again. Yet, getting these glimpses of the intelligent, empathetic and kind child he is becoming, makes me very proud.
They do grow up so fast. And in the next few years, which will seem like seconds, he will be grow to be a foot taller than me and instead of quizzing him on phonics or his numbers, I will be telling him that if he even looks at a girl in “that way”, his penis will turn black and fall off. Which seems, so far, to be a good sex deterrent for my current teenager. And as much as I am enjoying watching that indomitable child grow into a great man, there are days when I want nothing more than to transform him back into a little boy, with his curly hair and insane temper, and just sit and cuddle with him one more time.
So, Happy Birthday, Rafey. A few weeks early. Please forgive me if I call you “Lamby” well into your 30’s and treat you like a baby far longer than is reasonable. I love you.