So in most cases, it's the Mommy who has a hard time with her children growing up. And it's true in my case, except it seems that Cole is having a much harder time than me.
I had an end-of-the-year parent/teacher conference with Cole and Bella's preschool teacher on Friday morning. She raved about how well they both have done in this past school year and she said how much fun she had watching them grow and learn. When I asked her if she felt they were ready for kindergarten in the fall, she said, "Definitely, more than ready".
On the drive home from preschool, I told Cole and Bella about all the wonderful things Miss Denise had said about them and I asked, "Are you both excited about kindergarten?". Bella answered, all smiles, "I'm excited!" but Cole's reaction was surprising. He started crying....and then sobbing. I thought maybe he was just feeling anxious about having to switch schools and teachers and make new friends all over again. I kept saying, "But, Cole, you'll be at your new school for at least 8 years....with the same friends and you'll get to know all the teachers....it'll be fun". He still continued to sob the whole way home.
When I was tucking him into bed that night, the truth came out. He said, "Mommy, I don't want to go to kindergarten, I don't want to be 5 years old and I don't want to grow up." I asked him why wouldn't he want to grow up. His answer absolutely tore my heart into pieces....he started crying and said, "I won't be your baby boy anymore if I grow up. So you have to talk to God and tell him to keep me little forever...tell Him I don't want anymore birthdays and I'll even give up birthday cake if He'll let me stay little forever."
As I choked back my own tears, I tried telling him about all the wonderful things about growing up....getting to play sports with his friends, going to science camp, being tall enough to ride Space Mountain at Disneyland, perhaps being Class President, learning how to drive....it didn't deter him. He was still very upset at the thought of growing up and not being my baby boy anymore.
I assured him that he would always be my baby boy, no matter what. Nothing would ever change that....no matter what he ever did in life, good or bad....he would always be my baby boy and that I would always love him. He still continued to cry and said, "But I won't be little anymore....you won't be able to hold me".
I just sat there with him in my lap, rocking him gently, explaining that getting taller and growing up doesn't change the fact that he's still my baby...I said, "God created you to grow up and be happy and to enjoy life. Just treasure each and every day as it comes and be thankful for all the blessings we have in our lives. And, trust me, even when you're 15 years old and I have to stand on a kitchen chair in order to be able to kiss your cheek, you'll still be my baby. He replied, "But I want to have a choice...it shouldn't be God's choice".
After awhile, he stopped crying, as I kissed his tears away and kissed him goodnight and told him to have sweet, happy dreams....no more worrying about growing up. I went downstairs, melted into the sofa and dried my own tears.
Some more experienced mothers have assured me that the first day of kindergarten is actually harder on us mothers....and that every milestone in the process of growing up is hardest on us mothers. But my son may be the exception to that case. He and I will have to lean on one another throughout the years, as we learn to accept that time will continue to pass quicker than we anticipated.
As he was crying about not wanting to grow up, it took sheer will power to not tell him how much I would also love for him to stay little forever. As much as I wanted him to know that, I felt it was important to try my best to smile through my own tears and convince him of all the fun and happy things he had to look forward to as he grows up.
But I can't look at baby pictures of him without wanting to cry for those lost days when he fit so snugly in my arms, as I would rock him to sleep every night, feeling his warm breath against my neck and listening to the sweet sighs he would make every few seconds, as if he didn't have a care in the world. I think back to those days when I'd walk into his room first thing in the morning and he'd be laying in his crib, with the sweetest toothless grin on his face and it brings tears to my eyes. There was nothing more wonderful than hearing his first true belly laugh, the first time he said "mama" and "I love you", and watching him learn to sit up, then crawl and then, finally, to walk.
What I wouldn't give to turn back the hands of time and have him be that small again...I'd treasure the moments so much more than I did, knowing how quickly they pass us by. I know those moments simply vanish and turn into distant memories to be recalled on when I join the ranks of other teary-eyed mothers, as we watch our babies graduate from high school and then college and go on to be married and have their own families. And while I look forward to his future, part of me does wish he could stay little forever, where I can keep him safe and happy and protect him from the cruel reality that sometimes lurks in the world around us.
After a little while, I went back into his room to check on him. He was fast asleep with his teddy bear tucked safely under his arm and I whispered quietly to him, "Every day that passes by, not only are you having to accept that growing up is a part of life, but, as your mother, I'm having to learn that my heart needs to feel happy for you, and not ache for those days of past. Just between you and me, I wish so much that you could stay little forever too. But, baby, you gotta grow up sometime...."