Incomprehensible sounds start turning into real words, which begin linking together to make logical phrases… pointing and whining at a cup becomes a clear and articulated “juice please.” The word “baby” may even drop off the front of his name. In fact, more often, you’re finding it appropriate to address him by his first AND middle name. “Zachary Newman!” rolls of the tongue nicely in a dire situation… as in “Zachary Newman! No Gogurt™ for doggies!” or “Zachary Newman! Get that off your head!” Little baby facial expressions announcing an obvious either happy baby or sad baby turn into gestures of in-between’ness. A shrug. A brush-off. Even a sigh. Did my not-even-2-year-old just offer me indifference? What the? <SIDENOTE- I am banking on these gestures being less adorable when he’s eleven and I need him to carry the trash out … only to be met with a Psssht!>
So last Saturday, it officially happened. Someone denied my little butterbean his status as a “baby.” Right out loud. I was walking into Starbucks, heading to meet a friend, and I was carrying Zac on my hip. And this woman was walking out with her, I’d say maybe, four or five year old little girl. And the woman says to her daughter, who is walking in front of her, “Watch out, sweetie. The lady [me] can’t see you; she’s carrying a baby.” And the little girl looked at me, then at Zac for a moment. Then she turned to her mother and said, “Mom, he’s not a baby!” My first instinct? To scream at her, “He is too, you little twit! And nobody asked you anyway!” But I remained calm and dignified, although aching and a little stunned. In one instant, that little girl, in her pink sparkly sneakers, wrecked every notion I’ve spent the last 21 months trying to wrap my brain around. Bam. Just like that. Her mother’s response eased my panic though, as I stood there as composed as possible, trying not to look like I wanted to cry or tell her kid that the Easter Bunny isn’t real. But it must have been written all over my face. She smiled, with obvious understanding, and said, “Well he’s her baby, so move.” And she was absolutely right.
He is, and always will be, MY BABY. Even when he plays his music too loud and leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor. Even when he wants to date a girl with tight jeans and too much makeup on. <Heaven help me!> And even when I ask him for the third time to go cut the grass and he rolls his eyes and groans at me, “Uggghhh Mooo-oooom!” There will be a day when he no longer fits in my lap to read stories, and he probably wont want to kiss me goodbye in front of his friends. But there will always be a part of me that thinks of him as “Baby Zac.” And for now, I’m going to suck up all the snuggly wuggly moments I can… Before he is 10, bigger than I am, and thinks his parents are lame.
PS- This morning on parking lot duty, I watched as a mom pulled up to drop her son, a sophomore, off in front of the school building. He leaned over to kiss her cheek, then turned to receive hers. There is hope.