Jan 22 2017

The Space Between Baby and Boy

We’re in it now, this space between baby and boy.

We’re teetering, delicately and precariously, a roller coaster in its graceful pause just before the plunge. It was a little rickety at first, climbing that steep, steep slope: Sleepless nights. Endless spit-up. Needless crying. I felt each click click click of the ascent. But for now, we are floating here, balancing above the next phase of your life.

With your sister, I didn’t realize it was coming. I just woke up one morning and she was a little girl. Somehow, in one dreamless night, her ringlets grew out, her face changed, her speech solidified. I didn’t know there was a space between until it was gone.

But with you, I recognize the signs. I feel fortunate that I can see it this time around, grateful for the opportunity to soak in every last minute of your babyhood.

In a little while, everyone will be able to decipher your sentences. You will learn to speak in a way that even strangers can comprehend. You are already saying so much — but it is a language just for Mama, things only I know, words that only I can understand. I am your translator. I get to tell the world what you mean.

I love how you need me for that.

Soon, you’ll have opinions about your food, your friends, your clothes. You might have favorite shirts, or prefer shorts to pants, or reject every outfit I choose just because you can. But this morning, I snapped closed your onesie and you giggled at the sound. I zipped up your fleece. I had to put on your socks.

I love how you need me for that.

Any minute now, your precious drunken stagger will, almost mid-stride, turn into a run. You will learn to jump — really jump, like you pretend to when you bend your round little knees over and over, your face beaming with pride. One day your feet will leave the floor, and those baby knee-bends will be gone. You will throw farther. You will climb higher. But right now, I carry you when you stumble. I lift you onto the swings. I walk beside you on the stairs.

I love how you need me for that.

You are still utterly unselfconscious, still blissful in your you-ness. You still share, immediately and generously, everything: Toys. Snacks. Kisses. You are unburdened by the weight of your surroundings, and in this brief period of life when you have known no unkindness, you are still pure and earnest and good. No one has teased you on the playground. No one has ever hurt your feelings. You are still so innocent and unbruised.

But tomorrow, your hair might smell of boy instead of baby, that sweet scent replaced by something unfamiliar. You might wake up and hand me your security blanket and never ask for it again. And all the folds on those impossibly scrumptious baby thighs will melt away into our past.

baby chub rolls space between baby and boy

Look at these delicious rolls. LOOK AT THEM.

How can I preserve those cheeks before a tiny jawline peeks through? How can I bottle that belly laugh? How can I keep those chubby little feet?

In this in-between, you are a heartbreaking blend of attempted independence and desperate reliance. You still hold my hand, happily and willingly, and you are not the only one who is scared to let go.

Today we went to a parent/toddler class. We took a spot in the back because you seemed wary of so much singing and dancing and clapping. At first, you just stared at all the babies, realizing, perhaps for the first time, that there was a world outside of Mama. You slid off my lap and stepped cautiously toward the music. But halfway to the front, you sensed an absence — and you turned, searching for my face, just to make sure I was still there.

I was. I am. I will be.

So while we rest here in this space between, let me test your restraints one last time before we careen downhill. Let me just make sure you’re safe. I love how you need me for that.

And you can let me know if I am holding on too hard, baby. I’m not ready — so you will have to tell me when it’s time.

For that, I need you.

About Melissa

Melissa is a SAG-AFTRA actress and former high school teacher from Michigan who (reluctantly) moved across the country when she was six months pregnant. She is the winner of the SmokeLong Quarterly Grand Micro Contest and a past winner of the Breakwater Review Fiction Prize (selected by Susanna Kaysen, author of Girl, Interrupted), the F(r)iction flash fiction competition, and The Writer's inaugural personal essay contest, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Greensboro Review, New Ohio Review, HuffPost, Scary Mommy, and The Boston Globe Magazine, among others. She has been shortlisted for both the Bridport Prize and the Bath Flash Fiction Award and was recently selected for The Best Small Fictions and the Wigleaf Top 50. Melissa is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

6 comments on “The Space Between Baby and Boy

  1. Love, love, love this! I remember it happening with both of my baby boys. And it came silently in the night! Sure I was more prepared the second time, but I still wanted them to be babies a little longer. I am so excited to experience this again with my grandsons. Watching Liam, who is almost four, become a little boy was sad but sweet. I find myself treasuring even more the “baby-ness” of his four-month-old brother. I’ll enjoy those snuggles and coos while I can. After all, I guess we just have to just celebrate their independence and love our sweet memories. And now I’ll go snuggle that baby while I still can!

    • Yes! Squeeze those baby rolls! Cannot get over the baby rolls. And how wonderful to be able to experience it all again (or maybe just the good parts? 🙂 ) as a grandma!

  2. I remember those days…… so very long ago…… and now it’s my turn to enjoy being a GG (great-grandma) to two little boys…… can’t get much better than that….. oh wait…. have a great-granddaughter too & all 3 are so innocent…… so entertaining, so full of energy and are so excited to see us when we come visit — sure does melt ones heart. Your little guy (baby) is definitely a cutie and looks like he is full of energy as our greats….. YOU…. sure do know how to express how you feel about your situation…… GOOD JOB xoxoxo

  3. Enjoyed reading this today Melissa. Our third child turned 4 months today(the other two are 8yrs n 6yrs) and i actually could relate to the beautiful things u talked about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *