I didn't nurse the baby last night, or this morning either. There's that slight ache. For two minutes yesterday she did want to nurse to calm down after being clunked in the head when her sisters wrestled her into a "baby sandwich" an inch too close to the coffee table. Soon she was bored with it and back to charging the big kids like a little bull with a six-tooth grin.
With luck, this happens. They wean. It stings me to know these are the last baby times I'll ever have. Now when I see those sleepy, milk-coma bellies and fuzzy heads and fat little triple chins, I'll just be dropping off a meal or borrowing a cuddle. Mine are growing. I'm lucky. This happens.
They start wanting scrambled eggs in their high chair and saying "no" and then one day they walk away for the first time. Their little Pampered butts toddle away for a step or two and collapse. They gain their stride. They go through the three-year phase of refusing anything but macaroni. They start picking out their own clothes.
They ask for a bracelet for Christmas. Dolls aren't cool anymore. They sneak a Dr. Pepper flavored lip gloss to school. They beg to go on overnights because Layla's mom said yes.
They get a Facebook profile. A boy you've never seen in your life waves to your daughter at the store and you witness a conversation about one of those Direction brothers or something. A nasty girl at school says your daughter is a "hoe". Or "ugly". Or "looks like a bobble head".
Your husband talks you into buying a third car because if you don't, she'll use her babysitting money to buy some clunker without seat belts that might break down in the middle of no where and of which you can't confiscate the keys in the event of rule-breaking.
They start wearing eyeliner and looking impossibly, terrifyingly gorgeous. Were we ever like that? They break up with their boyfriends and fall into dramatic funks that last for weeks. You can't help them with their Spanish homework anymore. You can't keep tabs 24 hours a day. You trust other parents. You hope for the best. You resist the urge to go through their purses and break into their phones. You watch for eating disorders and worry yourself into a pit when they are five minutes late on their curfew. With luck, they arrive home.
They pick a college. They struggle. They succeed. They don't call. Sometimes, they call too much and that's when you really worry. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but the times when we are brought in to cuddle the closest are the times they are hurt. With luck, they get well.
Maybe the baby won't nurse tomorrow.
I can't take it personally or force her to need me. I can't stop time. The grand irony of parenting is you are successful only when you let go - and are lucky enough to have something to let go in the first place. The best-case scenario is they don't need you. They survived. No car crashes. No cancer. No random acts of the unfair universe. With luck, they are happy and growing and you've done the job you needed to do.
Happy (almost!) birthday to my growing girl, my last baby. I wasn't lucky enough to have her twin sister to love and to nurse and to feel the pain of her weaning or worrisome phone calls from college some day long in the future.
I have this baby, though, and I'm lucky enough to to feel that unbearable lightness of letting her go.
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