So as of this month, The Boy is the big five point oh! Five fabulous years, can you believe it? I hardly can — and then, at the same time, I almost can't remember what life was like before he got here. He's a little guy, but he's got a very large presence — one that seems to be getting larger by the day.
Everything changes so fast. Before I was a mom, five years seemed like such a long time. Longer than I spent in either high school or college, and longer than I stayed at lots of jobs. Five years is longer than I lived in my awesome apartment on Floyd Avenue, which I would still be in if the landlord had let me stay. But now, even though it's been five years, it seems like only yesterday that we were creeping down Monument toward home at 20 miles an hour, adrenaline pumping and hearts racing, with The Boy's little 7-pound, 7-ounce self barely visible under the striped hospital blanket in the car seat. We couldn't believe that those idiots at St. Mary's were sending us home — alone — to raise and care for an actual human being. Were they crazy?
Speaking of St. Mary's, I'll never forget the first time I watched one of the NICU nurses change The Boy's tiny diaper, before I had been granted the privilege of doing so myself. The way she folded him up like an origami frog, bending his little legs this way and that way and flipping him like a pancake, brought out a primal, possessive fear I'd never felt before. That's my brand-new baby, the one I just spent nine months working on! Shouldn't she be more careful with him? For God's sake, he's not a hacky sack! (Babies, as it turns out, are a lot sturdier than they look.)
When he was coming up on a year, I remember wondering if he would ever say anything more than "kitty cat." Then one day, without warning, he popped out with about a dozen words, as if he'd been waiting until he had enough vocabulary stored up for a chat. Nights like last night, when I hear about everything from outer space to mummies to the robots that seem omnipresent in his mind, I find it hard to believe that there wasn't always a constant stream of verbiage spilling from his mouth in that helium-spiked voice that can be heard half a block away and through closed doors like a sonar signal.
About a month after I was able to stop worrying about his non-talking, I started fretting about his non-walking. At 13 months, he was content to sit plopped in the middle of the floor or stand propped like a barfly against his train table or the edge of the couch, smiling and drooling and chatting up a storm.
Then one morning, I was halfway through drying my hair when The Boy sauntered casually by the bathroom door and offered up a hearty wave.
"Aww, look," I called to Tad, who was across the hall in the bedroom. "He's waving!"
"Um," Tad noted, peering into the hall, "he's also walking." Well, yes, that, too.
Nowadays the milestones are less classic but every bit as impressive. The other day, The Boy was enjoying some computer time while I got ready for work. In yet another of my frequent Mother of the Year moments, I told him I was off the clock and unavailable for tech support. (It wouldn't sound so mean if you knew how many questions I'd already fielded.) I could hear him sounding out words syllable by syllable, then guessing, often correctly, what letters were involved. Peeking into the computer room, I saw that he was Googling things! By himself! And finding them! It warmed my nerdy little heart. My baby, doing independent research.
When I allow myself to get a little maudlin, I picture where we'll be five years from now. And five years after that. But that's as far as I ever get, because by then I have usually hunted him down and dragged him into my lap for kisses and stories. Because before you know it, he'll be too big for that. So I'm stocking up while I can, and I'll keep it up for as long as he'll let me. Happy birthday, buddy. Mama loves you.