I had become accustomed to thinking about my son’s growing up in measurable ways: the number of months in his age, pounds weighed, number of words that he could speak, developmental milestones reached, number of naps taken per day.
But now I realize that he’s becoming his own little separate person in ways that are impossible to quantify: the silly songs that he makes up in his crib to sing himself to sleep, the belly laugh that he gives when he’s feeling a volatile mix of tired and happy, his confident charging from place to place with no glance backward to check if Mommy is there.
At the park yesterday he ran around the play structure in full toddler force. He was tired at the end of the long afternoon, fighting off a cold. He was irritable, hungry, weepy, yet defiant about leaving the park.
When I tried to pick him up to carry him to the stroller, he screamed and kicked so wildly that I put him down. He took off for the trees, bushes, and picnic table to the far side of the play ground, running faster than any two year old should be capable. He stopped quickly in his tracks when he saw a boy of about eight or ten sitting at the picnic table with his family with a giant bubble wand in one hand.
As his family talked in Spanish loudly around him, eating snacks and drinking soda, the boy met my son’s gaze, ignoring me and inhaling for a few seconds to prepare for a long exhalation of bubbles. My son was transfixed by the anticipation of waiting to see what this big boy would do.
As the bubbles sparkled in the fading afternoon light, my son danced around the picnic table, touching the bubbles, jumping and laughing. I sat down in the grass, relieved to have a few seconds of peace. After several minutes, my son looked around for me and then smiled when he caught my eye. The older boy had stopped blowing bubbles and was turning back to his family.
My son kept smiling at me and then charged over to the boy. Watch this, Mommy, his gaze said to me.
“Thank you for bubbles,” my son said to the boy clearly and then toddled back over to me, taking my hand. He led me to the stroller, allowed me to put him in, and took a sip of juice.
My son has the tears and screams of a baby, the fearlessness and curiosity of a toddler, the purity of heart of a young child, the dismissive glances of an adolescent. He is his own person, ready to share his happiness and gratitude with others. My son is growing up and suddenly he is every age at once.
Was there a moment when you realized that your child wasn’t a baby or a toddler anymore?