I Can Still Hold You When You Are Five

five

“Why are you still in your underwear?” I nudged with a slight hint of chill in my voice. “Five year olds can dress themselves.” Rolling around on the couch in nothing but a pair of Minion underwear, he replied, “I know, but I just don’t want to today, Mommy. Just not today.” He is my third child to reach the threshold of the ripe old age of five. I waved the white flag and dressed him, just for today.

“Ladies first!” he exclaims, jumping out the front door with a renewed sense of energy and modesty. “You can go through the door first, Mommy,” he instructed, “then you can carry me to the car, if you want.”

“Just for today” I thought, and lifted him with one arm while carrying bags and coffee mugs and planners and computers in the other. Imbalanced, one would say. Carrying family life in one arm and work life in the other.

But his life happened so quickly, right from the word go. He is the third baby, and for today, the last baby. He was my hand me down, meltdown, strong willed, anger filled little man-child, ready and willing to take his place in an already crazy, bustling family trying to find their footing in the world.

And now he goes to school. He is the last kindergarten checkup. The final car seat we will purchase. The one that can still fit into 4t clothing. The one that still plays with rubber ducks in the bathtub.

It used to frustrate me greatly as a young parent when older parents would say to “cherish these moments,” and “enjoy these babies,” because life was so much harder than we let on. We tried to show that we could do it, that having three kids in four years was cake. The only cake that ever met my lips was the one I would eat from the fridge at 2am in solitude, before the baby woke up again.

They would wipe my tears from the small, confined corner I would sit in when I needed a breather, between multiple diaper changes and the toddler tantrums and the letters and numbers for the older ones. When we would sit on the stained carpet at the old house, the house that they no longer remember, and I would ache for rest and long for bedtime.

Now, life is lighter. They are nine, six and five. The sleepless nights are over, the crying has ceased; the fog of motherhood has finally lifted. A fog I never spoke of, yet a dark time I will never forget.

When they needed me, I was overwhelmed. When I was free, they no longer needed me.

So, the next time you see me in the store, knowing that all of my kids are old enough to walk on their own, I will probably be carrying the baby, the five year old. His feet will dangle past my shorts and muddy up my legs, and my arms will be sore from the weight of his school-aged body. But, I need this. He needs this. Just for today.

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