I always get sad around my kids' birthdays. What a very selfish thing, I suppose...but I think about how this time will never come round again: the four-year-old giggles that lift my heart to the clouds with joy, the bedtime songs sung religiously each night, the great dance moves that always make me laugh, and the little blue-eyed, blond-framed face that gazes on me several times a day with abundant love and admiration. Ah, my forever baby!
Berto, my oldest, tells me I shouldn't call Danny Sam my forever baby; he already acts like my baby. Perhaps he's right. My little guy turns five this month and is going to kindergarten next school year. He has already been riding a bike expertly without training wheels for many months; he knows how to beat me at Skip-Bo Junior and Doodle Dice; and he plays soccer and football with his older siblings as if he were as big as they are. He has even had his first crush already, talking about marrying one of the daughters of my good friend, Holly, and saying he'll marry the oldest and then date the youngest (wait....what?!). Soon he'll be losing his first tooth.
When I think of Danny going to kindergarten late this summer, at times I want to celebrate and plan and then at other times I feel a panic attack coming on. Like now, for instance. Once he goes to school, I know there will be peaceful grocery trips where the words Can I have a doughnut? Please! Pleeeease? are never heard. I know there will be hours spent at the computer typing, a whole post unraveled seamlessly in a day, without a little man hanging on my back, begging me to play with him. And I do believe - I do! I do! - that I will finally volunteer at a favorite charity and get to a thousand projects around the house, like collecting and printing all the pictures from the last few years of our family's life to assemble into photo albums.
But then the questions and panic come upon the heels of my plans. Have I made the most of my time in these several months at home with Danny? Have I taken him to the park as often as I should have? Have I played enough games with him, pitched enough baseballs to him in the backyard, explored new places each week....uh, each month?
I haven't really. No. We've stayed home more than we should have while I've tried to be a better writer. I've fretted over the house and all its junk, working to clean it and clear it. I've missed out on sitting with him during library story time, because I always seem to forget or one of the older kids is home sick. Crying out loud, I've let him watch too much PBS while trying to write, read or while wasting my life on Facebook (even if it did partly have something to do with my writing hopes). Of all places, the grocery store was our most regular outing.
Breathe, I think, as I face my shortcomings in trying to be - at least quite often - an active, selfless mom. After all, I have played Red Light/Green Light. I've done my best to arrange regular play dates, even if they weren't at exciting places like the zoo or children's museum. I've read many, many books to him in the afternoon before he finally gave up naps in December. We have worked together on "home preschool": letters, calendar, addition. I've baked with him and danced with him. We have challenged each other in countless board games and have scaled numerous playground structures while playing tag. And I have simply held him, kissed his blond head and gazed into his absolutely adorable little blue-eyed face, still small enough to be nestled in the crook of arm. My Forever Baby I have cherished, even while knowing he will not forever be my baby.
While writing this post I remembered that today was library story time! Being spring break, I packed up all the kids, and Ella joined in story time with Daniel even though she preferred to be doing something else. We got to shake our sillies out, pretend to be monsters in a revised hokey-pokey, and stretch to snatch bubbles before they floated to the ceiling. Later I took the kids for a very rare treat at the mall, letting them all choose whatever unhealthy food court fare they liked. Then we let Daniel, now a wee bit too tall, play in the kids' play area one last time as Berto, Ana and I giggled, vastly entertained by all the little tikes' shenanigans. It was a good day. Sometimes it's all about serendipity and reminding yourself that motherhood is indeed a joy, one that needs your "all in" spirit.