I call my child Bunny.
I don’t know exactly how it started, but when he was brand new and nuzzled into my body, sleeping and nursing … or often both… he just looked like a tiny floppy bunny. And it stuck. But someday that silly nickname will no longer fit my growing, independent little boy. And I fear that someday is closer than I thought.
He’s begun the process of self-realization. He’ll look at a picture of himself and his father and he’ll point to Masa, “dada”. Then he’ll point to his newborn self and say, “baby”. Lately, he’s started saying “Gus.” This weekend he pointed to his chest and said, “Bunny,” followed by, “Hop. Hop.”
I feel like I’m in a no-man’s-land of time. This in-between stage when he still wants to nurse, and he still wants to rock in his chair, but when he’s old enough to tell me “chair!” and climb up on my lap himself. He’s running and playing and being a kid more and more every day, but my heart is heavy when I think of weaning him from the breast, something we’re going to attempt after the holidays. He’s my baby, but he’s not going to be a baby much longer at all.
I never thought I’d wax nostalgic about Gus’ first year. I’m not going to lie to you, there were some rough moments. When his first birthday came and went, I expected tears, weepiness, aching for the tiny babe with his itty bitty fingernails and perfect ears. But they never came. And over the summer when I looked back, trying to think, “a year ago today I was…”, nothing came. It wasn’t until the fall – a time of year that always stokes my sentimental side – that I started to feel stirrings of longing for quiet days when it was just Gus and me against the world. I realized that the first few months of Gus’ life were such a blur. Remembering a year ago, is truly like remembering waking up, and the time before it feels a bit like dreams. I’m finally finding that point I always knew I’d reach where my heart pains at the thought of my boy getting any bigger, even though I can’t WAIT to see what comes next.
We had some trouble with sleep over the last eighteen months. Who doesn’t? (note: if you tell me that you didn’t I’ll just hate you anyway so let’s call that rhetorical) I nursed him to sleep for a long, long time and as tired as I was, I always felt sad at the thought of ending our nightly ritual. But masa and I were on the verge of utter mental collapse if we lost any more sleep in our house, so we did the sleep training anyway, and it’s worked wonders for us. Gus doesn’t fall asleep in my arms at night anymore. Instead, he points at his crib when he’s done nursing and says. “bed.” I ask, “are you ready for bed?” and he nods. He hugs me goodnight and then he curls up on his soft blankets and smiles at me as I tell him I love him and switch off the lamp. My heart sings at the picture he makes and my body and mind deeply appreciate the ease with which he goes down these days.
But I still (will always?) miss the dark, quiet nights when it was just the two of us. When I could rock him for as long as my heart needed to, watching him sleep, feeling his warmth and his weight and listening to his baby-sleep noises.
On weekends sometimes I rock him before nap time and he’ll fall asleep in my arms. All at once my bustling, talking, laughing, running toddler is again my little bunny. I can’t tear my eyes away from his face, the curve of his chin, his hands and feet – how big they’ve gotten! His ears and his nose, a peek of belly where his shirt has ridden up. He’ll always be my bunny.
I am not the kind of mother who believes that it’s this child’s job to be my baby. I won’t be a helicopter (or at least I try my best not to be). I am not the one to interfere with every endeavor that has him frustrated, from stacking blocks to his 8th grade science project. I believe it’s my job to help him become the best human he can be – to help him grow, and then grow up. So I will, for both our sakes, let go. Bit by bit, when the time comes, I’ll let my boy find his wings.
How even the thought of letting go of his babyhood can make me weak with dread and sadness and loss.
Even as I am captivated by each new stage and marvel over how amazing a little person he is becoming, I will mourn our early morning cuddles while he nurses. Even as I delight in watching him learn new things every. single. day, my eyes fill when I watch him sleep, knowing how fleeting time can be.
I love my boy. More than anything in the world. And I won’t hold him back. But for now, during this blink-of-an-eye time, I will hold him close. My bunny.