Today when I was getting you a fork for your mandarin oranges, you kindly reminded me you’re not a baby anymore.
“I don’t need a little fork. I’m big. Babies need little forks.”
You slid that baby fork with rounded, metal prongs and a pink, plastic handle across the counter quick. I gave you an all-metal, big girl fork instead.
How silly of me.
I have to admit, I did find baby spoons in the silverware drawer yesterday and wondered why I’d kept them there all this time. You haven’t used those baby spoons for at least 2 1/2 years now. Maybe I was saving them for some other baby. Either way, it’s probably time for those baby utensils to go in the garage sale pile.
This isn’t new to me. I’ve been in denial for months now. Okay, let’s be real. I’ve been in denial for at least a couple years. For goodness sakes, you’re closer to four than you are three, now. You’re most certainly NOT a baby anymore.
Back in May, before the big kids finished school, I forced myself to un-baby your bedroom. At least a little bit. I took off the changing pad you hadn’t used in months. I put away all the baby books. I cleaned out the baby clothes I had sitting on the side of your dresser, and put half in a Rubbermaid and half in the garage sale pile. I put your beautiful, handmade burp cloths in your memorabilia box. (They didn’t get burped on that much, right?) And I finally turned off the baby monitor and receiver I’d been OVER-using for years. Daddy had been annoyed by that thing forever and a day, and asked me to shut it down a hundred times. I just couldn’t. So that day, I finally turned them off. But they’re still sitting on your nightstand and mine, you know. Just in case. Someday. We haven’t had it in the budget to get you a big girl bed, so you’ll stay in the toddler bed for now. It’s okay with me as long as you don’t grow too big before spring.
You start preschool tomorrow. Preschool.
Half days, I think you’re still a baby.
But half days, I know you’re a big girl. You’re bored. You’re ready. You wish and want for something more.
I’ve seen you since school started for the big ones. Longing for 3 and 4-year-old companionship, you run, at least once a day to the neighbors’ houses to see if your tiny friends are home to play. But they aren’t home. They’re gone. To daycare. To grandma’s house. To school. You’re not so hot on me anymore. You’d rather be with them.
This is a sign.
A sign you’re ready for preschool.
A sign you’re not a baby anymore.
A sign you’ve grown beyond 24/7, mama/baby cuddle time.
It’s been a journey, that’s for sure. We weren’t sure if we were going to have you. Meaning, we weren’t sure if we were going to have a third child. For years and years, we pondered, worried and waited. What if? What then? But when your daddy and I were growing in years and realized I’d be 35, near 36, and he’d be 38, we knew it was time to decide. One last baby now. Or nevermore.
So we prayed on you. We prayed over you. Separately. Individually. God said yes to both of us. Yes. It’s time for a third.
Your birth changed everything for me. Everything.
In many senses, your birth meant I was no longer free. No longer free to do what I wished five days a week during the school year. No longer free to run errands anywhere, anytime while dad watched two big (and fairly easy) kids. No longer free to workout at my leisure. No longer free of daycare costs. No longer free to clean the house and work whenever and however much I wanted. No longer free of diapers, wipes and breast pumps. No longer free of baby costs, preschool costs, and still-to-come big kid costs. No longer free of baby seats, car seats and strollers.
But in so many other more important senses, your birth freed me. Freed me to realize God has grace, gifts and good things in store if only we trust. Freed me to start my blog. Freed me to pursue things I love and always wanted to do. Freed me to become myself. Freed me to laugh and love more than I thought I could. Freed me to chill out a bit. Freed me to use those diapers and wipes, breast pumps and strollers one more time. Freed me of the burden I’d carried for years, wondering if we should have one more child. Freed me to try full-time stay-at-home motherhood, even if it was for one, last kid. Freed me to feel much more complete with my family, myself and my life.
In other words, you’re worth it. We’re glad we had you, Maisie.
I’ve battled a bit between wanting you to stay a baby forever, and wanting you to grow up so I could have my mom-of-big-kids freedoms back. I’ve held you like a baby, tickled you, laughed and stared into your sparkly eyes far too long. And I’ve encouraged nap times so I could have a moment to myself, to do what I want and need to do. I’ve despised when older moms tell me to “enjoy every moment,” because I don’t think that’s realistic. And I’ve enjoyed every moment because I know you’re my last.
My last baby.
My last baby to lift and hold in one fell swoop. My last baby to read books to by the toddler bed. My last baby who can’t brush her own teeth yet. My last baby who still likes applesauce in cups. My last baby who thinks McDonald’s toys are the bomb. My last baby who calls me “mama.” My last baby whose week’s worth of clothes, blankets and shoes can fit in one tiny duffle bag. My last baby who’ll squeal in delight when we go on the Dumbo ride next month at Walt Disney World. My last baby who’ll have her first airplane ride. My last baby who needs help cutting her pizza and meat. My last baby who needs me at the playground. My last baby who cries when I drop her off at Sunday school. My last baby who’s going to preschool.
Bye, baby. You’re a big girl now.
You’re going to preschool tomorrow.
I’m so excited for you. And I’m so excited for me.
It’s a new journey.
Time to move on to what’s next.
Time to move on to what God has in store for you, for me, for our whole family.
You’re not a baby anymore.
But you’ll always be my baby.
This letter to my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Maisie, is last of a three-part letters series I’m writing to my children as we’re entering major transitions for each of them. I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings before the moment passed. If you want to read my letter to my near 13-year old son, Cooper, click here. If you want to read my letter to my 10-year-old daughter, Elsa, click here.