There are so many milestones I’ve watched for as you grow. I’ve anxiously waited to watch you roll over, then crawl, walk, talk, run, clap, and eat food on your own. I knew the markers to look for as you gradually moved from one phase of infancy into toddlerhood and then into childhood. The changes were so subtle that they snuck up on me, and even though your gradual progression from one phase to another happened way too fast, I knew to expect them. Many times, I even looked forward to them.
Today we hit a milestone I never really thought about before. Your shoes were soaking wet from playing outside, so you took them off, and I bent over to pick you up and carry you through the parking lot to the car like I’ve done a thousand times before. Except for this time, I almost couldn’t do it.
Up until now, I’ve been able to hold you your whole life. I carried you in my body for 9 months, wore you in a carrier as an infant, scooped you up as a toddler, and piggy-backed you in your elementary school years. But you’re no longer that snugly infant, that squirmy sticky toddler, that happy, bouncy kid. You’re a growing collection of long arms and legs, making you heavy to hold and awkward to carry. I managed to heave you up over my hip this time, but I knew as I did that I won’t be able to carry you for much longer.
It’s incredible to me that I can’t pick you up to hold you anymore. This change is a celebration of how strong and independent you’ve become, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t also make me feel a bit sad.
I feel like you’ve hit a “secret” milestone – a change I never thought to expect, but one that marks the end of an era.
I realized today that there are many things about you that I can’t hold as easily anymore.
For one, I can’t hold all the things about you in my memory – all your funny phrases, ways of running with your arm spinning, the phases of things you’ve loved and those you’ve hated. They blur with the passage of time, the addition of siblings, and our increasingly busier life.
I’m also not the only one who holds your attention or all your funny stories and secret ideas. Your days are shared with so many others, and I’m happy when I get a glimpse into your day during our talks before bedtime.
Finally, I can’t hold you out of harm’s way as easily as I used to. When you were younger and in danger, I physically picked you up and moved you away. If you were fighting with a sibling or squabbling with a friend, I could pick you up to help you find something else to do. Now, you have to figure out more things on your own. This is natural and good, but also hard for both of us. I can walk beside you as you negotiate social situations and make important decisions. But I can’t hold you back or easily pick you up and move you to a safer place. You are learning to navigate life on your own, and even though I will always be your biggest cheerleader, I can’t just scoop you up and save you all the time anymore.
I love watching you grow, but these little moments, these secret milestones, can also be bittersweet.