My Sweet Baby Carrot,
Today was our last day together. This weekend your older siblings will be home with us, and the next time they go to school, you will go too. You’re finally entering the world of full-time kindergarten, and you could not be more excited! Me, on the other hand…
When you were born, you came home to 3-year-old and 1-year-old siblings, and your life was LOUD. There has always been someone talking, crying, pooping, eating, spilling, whining, laughing, pushing, throwing, bouncing, banging, squealing, and all.of.the.noises all around you. When you were a baby, I put you in the swing so I could go to the bathroom, and I would come back to find you buried in toys your brother lovingly wanted to share. (He was maybe less concerned about you breathing under there, but boy did he love you!) When I got overwhelmed and needed a “quiet minute,” your big sister would push your crawling diaper-bottom into the bedroom before I lost my marbles. You were always a year ahead of schedule with your activities and interests because you just wanted to do whatever the big kids were doing.
I thought I knew you.
Then two years ago, your Irish twin brother went off to kindergarten, and it was just you and me. Well, there was a newborn too, but – much to your disappointment – he wasn’t much of a playmate, and he didn’t laugh or do anything funny yet. Still, he was a good baby, and most of the time, it felt like you were all mine, and I was all yours. Before then, you had gone to preschool a few days a week, but changes in our family meant now you would stay home all the time. I thought you would get bored. I thought you would miss your brother and sister. I thought you wouldn’t like being with me.
Turns out, I didn’t really know you.
I learned that you love reading more than playing ball, like you always did with your brother. You like puzzles and songs, and you would rather watch Barney than Spiderman. We went to library storytime, which was always just too hectic when your siblings were home, and your favorite part was cutting out shapes, even when you struggled. You are the most determined human being I have ever met, and you keep trying, trying, trying, until you get it right. We went to the park and you climbed to the tip-top of the jungle gym without any help, because I was pushing the baby, and you were so proud. I was so proud. I am so proud of you.
That boring little newborn turned into a silly toddler who absolutely adores you. You sing to him, make him laugh, and get him out of his crib when he wakes up early from nap. You help him up the steps on the Chick-fil-A playground, and you hold his hand when he falls and carry him to mommy. You’re his best friend.
Sweet Carrot, you have become my best friend.
I’ve never spent as many hours with any single human being as I have spent with you. You love helping me clean; you see it as acting like a grown-up rather than a chore. And you would do chores all day long if I promised you 20 minutes of uninterrupted attention at the end of it, as has often been our arrangement. You just love spending time with me; I don’t think I have ever felt so wanted as I have from you. I think you like moaning, “Moooomm, get off your phone!” because you know it’s an instant guilt trip, and I’ll stop everything to look you in the eyes. You have helped me shop, run countless errands, held the baby while I used the public restroom or taken too long at the customer service desk.
I love that you call your action figures “little toys” and want to make houses for them to live in together, like I used to do with my brothers. I love playing basketball with you in the driveway while the baby naps, and you always beat me. (Okay, maybe I’m terrible, but for a 5-year-old, you had serious skills!) I love making you breakfast of two-eggs-scrambled-with-cheese-and-salt-and-pepper with three pieces of toast-cut-like-a-circle: one with butter, one with jelly, one with butter and jelly. I love the way you say it exactly like that every morning. I love the wild stories you tell and the passion with which you tell them. I love how you walk into the library, grab the most random books off the shelf – always at least three more than I tell you to get – and remain firmly committed to checking out those books, no matter how strange of choices they end up being. You just want a reason for me to read to you. And of course you never let me forget to get board books for the baby, easy readers for brother, and chapter books for sister, even though none of them are even aware of this library excursion.
You want everyone to experience the joy you have.
You have helped me make countless new friends by attending playdates with strangers-to-you and jumping right into relationship with their kids so the mommies could talk. You listened to me go on and on about the women’s suffrage memorial on the day after the election, even though you didn’t understand what I was saying, but you could tell it was important to me. Then you helped me eat too many farmers’ market cookies, because it was a good day for cookies. You are painfully unaffectionate, but with a reluctant “oookaaayyyy,” you let me cuddle you when I’m having a hard day.
Today was one of those days.
We woke up early to take your brother and sister to school. I took you to Chick-fil-A to enjoy one last run through the playground with your little brother. Then we went to gymnastics as soon as it opened, and we had the whole place to ourselves. Your brother figured out how to jump in the foam pit and pull himself out, so I was free to spend almost the whole time with just you. We made up a ninja course for you to run, and of course, you crushed the competition. You were sweaty and hot, but rather than scold you for complaining, I took you to Sonic for a candy slush. We got books at the library, knowing full well we won’t read them over the next few days like usual, since you won’t have time with school stealing you for seven hours each day. We read them all as soon as we got home, laying down on the bean bag with your head resting in the crook of my arm. When we closed the last story and baby was still napping, you asked to watch a movie. Now that you are six, you’re choosing Barney and Winnie the Pooh less often. Today you must have sensed my nostalgia, because you picked the Curious George Halloween special, a family favorite since you were three. In a totally uncharacteristic but very-much-needed move, you agreed to let me spoon you while you watched, singing and laughing along to every line like you did those years ago. Today was everything I hoped it would be — full of the ordinary things that have made our time together so special, but all at the same time to be extra fun. I hope you loved it too.
Sweet Carrot, today was our last day together. When you go to school, I’m letting you ride the bus home because I don’t think I can face that long car line without you hopping in the front passenger seat by me. I’m making plans for each day next week, because I don’t know how I’ll deal with the quiet without you in the house. I want to scream at every young mother I meet and tell her to hold on so tight, because this precious time is so fleeting.