Earlier this week I was laying on the couch watching TV in one of those rare moments I had time to catch up a little on my DVR. Anakin had asked me several times for some milk as he had just gotten up from his nap and milk is the next step in his daily routine. Apparently the show I was watching was getting good and I brushed him off till the next commercial break. Just as I was about to get out of my oh-so-comfy position to accommodate him, he emerged from the kitchen with a cup of milk.
"Where did you get that?" I asked him, my mind racing through where I might of left an old cup of milk and if he might actually try to drink it.
"From the pridgemator," he said matter-of-factly.
"You made it yourself?"
"Yes, Mommy. All by myself."
And as if I really didn't believe him, "Show me," I replied. He proceeded to demonstrate how he used his step stool that is normally in the bathroom to get onto the counter to climb up to the cabinet to get the cup, back down, over to the refridgerator (with the stool in hand), to climb up to the top shelf to get the milk and pour himself a cup of it on the floor. Just to encourage this display, he even took the hand towel hanging from the stove and "cleaned" up his imaginary mess as if he had spilled.
So since that day, when he asks me for milk, as long as the jug is not too full, I tell him he is welcome to get some himself and thank you for asking first. The independence is welcome.
However, with this independence came a clause. There is this same point in every mother's life, I imagine. I must say, I was unprepared. How is it this time came and no one warned me about it? Or maybe they did and the warning was so hidden I didn't recognize it for what it was. You know, like when you are pregnant for the first time and everyone says "life will be so different after you have a baby" and you really feel like telling them to shut up? Until you are three sleepless weeks in and suddenly realize what "different" really meant. Yeah, it's like that. It's that point when you realize you are the mother of a bona fide, home grown, honest-to-goodness KID. He's not a baby anymore. He's not a toddler. His clothes don't have cute little dinosaurs on them with over-sized pupils and little rounded teeth. The little puppies and fire trucks get replaced with transformers and Spiderman. You used to play hide and seek in one room. You count to ten and he lays down under the dining room chair as if you can't see him, and you pretend you can't for the novelty of it. If I tried to present this game to him now, he'd think I was crazy!
I look down at him on the kitchen floor, pretending to clean an imaginary puddle of spilled milk and my heart swells up with emotions I can't describe. Is this boy really the little thing I could hold in just two hands less than four years ago? Is this boy really that thing that kicked and moved and banged around inside me for months? And if it has only taken 4 years for him to be a little boy and not a baby, what will he be in 4 more years? He will be in 3rd grade, bringing home math homework. He'll be on the baseball team. He'll go fishing with his daddy on the weekends. Certainly by then he'll even have his own set of golf clubs. What then? Another 4 years and he'll almost be a teenager. Awkward and unkept. He'll have his own friends and his own interests and I'll have a whole new set of worries to keep me awake at night.
I take a deep breath and help him cap on the lid to his cup (independence doesn't always come with great motor skills) and I give him a hug and tell him "good job." And I stay kneeled there on my kitchen floor for just a moment. Just a moment long enough to remember. And I hold him in my arms and feel his little chest rise and fall against mine and cherish the warmth of his skin against my neck until he pulls away just a little.
"I love you, Mommy," he says with a smile.
"I love you, too... baby."