A friend recently told me that she wished people would quit telling her she “babied” her one year old son; that he was a mama’s boy and needed to be toughened up. Understandably, she was upset.
Sure, he’s one and my son is two and my niece is five; it doesn’t matter, they are still our babies.
I am well aware that the walking, talking, food throwing, funny blue eyed boy who trots next to (or away from) me all day is not a baby. “Baby” isn’t an age or a milestone: it’s a heart position.
This boy lives in my heart in a way that I didn’t know possible. Even when I was pregnant, I didn’t realize the depth of a parent’s love. I certainly couldn’t understand it because I had been around kids a lot. How could I?
But this boy, he changed my understanding. He changed me. Somehow, even when he’s in another room, I know what he is doing. I know the sounds of his play and the sounds of his mischief. I know when I can push for the bath and when I should just wait till tomorrow. I know the look of genuine sadness and when he is trying out “sad” to learn how other people respond and handle it. I know the fit of his head on my left shoulder; I could also tell you how the fit has changed from newborn to toddler. I know the sound of his healthy breathing versus sick breathing. I know which night time noises mean I can leave him be, and which sounds send me running to his room to get him back to sleep. I know the difference between “Mamma” and “Mommee”, and I know how to respond. I know this boy. He changed me. The next one will change me again. I’ll never be the same.
My husband changed too; he loves, and knows, our son, but he’s never been “accused” of babying him. I understand this too. Daddy will allow a little more freedom: with Daddy our little can try out the curly slide, run down the sidewalk without holding hands, throw the ball in the kitchen, and roughhouse. Most, all, of these things cause Momma’s breath to catch in her throat until it comes out in a rush accompanied by warnings (I’m learning…. I’m keeping quiet more. I’m trying at least). For these reasons, Daddy is never seen to be coddling the toddler.
I resent this as much as I understand it. I resent it because if Daddy picks up the crying toddler after a fall, Daddy is being sensitive and compassionate. If Momma does the same exact thing, Momma is hovering and babying.
Holding our children close, responding when they need us, respecting their hearts and brains and little selves isn’t babying—it is basic human decency.
I will forever consider my son my baby. This isn’t an attempt to hold him back from growing up, it is an acknowledgment of my love for him: it’s recognition of our bond, the hours spent growing and carrying him, the hours spent laboring to meet him, the days and weeks and months of feeding him from my own body, the years spent with this sweet boy right next to me- one unit, mother and baby.
That never goes away. He’ll always be my baby.
I have a strong suspicion my mother and mother in law would say the same thing about their “babies”.