The Baby

You know how some women crave strange things when they’re pregnant, like bologna and banana sandwiches or ice cream with carrots? When I was pregnant the first time, I craved country music. There was a popular song then called The Baby by Blake Shelton, and for some reason it just killed me. I wasn’t sure why – I’m the oldest in my family, not the youngest. But it would come on while I was driving and I would tear up and I’d feel silly for getting worked up over a stupid country song.

I can’t blame all of my motherhood tears on a strange taste for country songs, however. There’s also “Love You Forever,” by Robert Munsch. Zachary and I bought it at the mall one day and I started reading it in the car out loud, at first thinking the mother was a little too doting and creepy, but before long I was crying, Zachary was crying, and even though Miles was just a few months old, I was already dreading him moving out on his own one day. If you haven’t read it, the repeated verse in it ends with, “As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

Now that we know our family is complete, we have a “baby.”

As the oldest of five kids, I was quite bossy and a little unnaturally obsessed with things being fair amongst us. Now that I have kids I understand that you can’t treat all of your kids identically because they all have different needs, but at the time if any of my siblings got something I didn’t get (materially or emotionally speaking), I assumed my parents loved them more than me. I swore that when I had children I would do everything exactly the same way with each and every child.

I hope our kids think we’re fair, but I’ve noticed that the baby definitely rules the roost, at least for now. When Isla and Miles were toddlers, if they screamed for something I’d gently remind them to say, “Please,” before giving it to them. I try the same thing with Jonah, but the older kids will often do anything they can to make sure the baby doesn’t screech (he’s got it perfected to a shrillness that will nearly burst your eardrums).

I find myself wanting to cuddle with him more because I know this is the last time I will have a toddler who will fit so neatly in my lap. I am not as easily flustered by his screaming and tantrums because I know that when he reaches Isla’s age he may be more likely to pout and give me the silent treatment when he’s angry. If I can keep him contained in it, I will keep him in his crib until he stops wearing diapers. I give him his sippy cup of juice almost every time he asks for it because it’s so cute when he says “joo.”

One habit of babyhood I can’t give up is the pacifier. With the other kids I obsessed a bit about making sure they quit their pacifiers before age one, because the pediatrician said after that it would be more difficult. Miles never really took one, and while Isla and Grant were addicted to theirs, when each was about nine months old we threw them in the trash and dealt with a few rough nights, but never looked back.

At first I said we were keeping Jonah on the pacifier (or “passie,” as I call it – it’s okay to mock me, the term makes even me cringe, I am not normally one to give items nicknames) because we were going to Disney World and it would make travel easier. And that is partially true. But we didn’t take it away after Florida, either. Then he burnt his hand and we thought he needed it for comfort.

Now we have no pat reason to keep the pacifier, yet instead of throwing the old ones away when they started to get a little grucky, we bought new ones.

Why do I feel this need to justify it? When Miles was 16 months old he was already a big brother, and he was the oldest child we’d ever had; to us he seemed like a big kid. But now I have more perspective. Miles is going to turn 8 this year. I don’t have to bend down anymore when I give him a hug. He’s reading Harry Potter on his own. He goes off to friends’ houses and plays with them without mothers hovering. He spends five days a week at school and I don’t know what he’s doing every moment of those hours away.

I can see now that 16 months old is still a baby. Jonah is a baby, and when he digs his pacifiers out of his crib and sticks them in his mouth I feel like I am holding onto this stage for a while longer. He’s my baby. He’s my baby.

I have another perspective, too – while Miles and Isla and Grant may have potty trained long ago, may feed themselves and know how to turn on the Wii without help, I’ve realized I still think of them as my babies, as well. They will all be my babies forever, even when they’re eighty. And who knows, I may even sneak into their houses to rock them to sleep when they’re old. I wouldn’t put it past me.

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