Here is something that I didn’t understand before I had a child: children are always walking away from you. From the moment of birth, they’re reaching towards a future in which you only play a miniscule part – a phone call or two, maybe a visit. As a parent, you hope for this future, when a child is successful and mature enough to leave you, and at night, when your newborn sighs or mewls, the future isn’t scary. When your child hits a milestone – walking, talking, going to kindergarten for the first time, you watch this long-legged child walk away from you and it’s hard not to look back and say – do you remember when you needed me every moment of your life? Of course, they don’t; and that’s a milestone, too.
My child is still a baby, with the boneless, plump baby hands, the small and even baby teeth. He holds my hand willingly in public, and asks me to rock him, just for old time’s sake. But he’s turning five. He’s going to kindergarten. And one day, he will go to first grade, to fifth grade, to high school, to college (knock on wood; for now, he wants to be a construction worker and skip the whole college thing). One day, I will look at my face in the mirror, changed by time, and I will remember that I would hold his hand before bedtime and he would giggle and whisper his five-year secrets to me, and how foolish I was when I thought we would be like this forever.
But for now, my baby is still a baby; and I won’t cry when I see, “Welcome, Class of 2024” on the bulletin tomorrow at his school.