I can’t quite believe it myself, but my firstborn will turn six years old in a couple of days time. He’s so excited. Six is a big deal, you know. Six is the minimum age requirement for all the toys I’m reluctant to let him have right now. A skateboard mainly (which he’s still not getting). And being six puts him firmly into the kid zone and out of the last grasps of toddlerdom. We are, officially, a third of the way to adulthood. And we couldn’t feel any more differently about this.
Finn, for his part, is obviously pretty chuffed about it all. Mainly I think because he’ll have another year on his younger sister. Temporarily, obviously. But for the next few months, in his mind, there is a SIGNIFICANT (two year) age gap. Therefore, his big brother status becomes elevated. What more could a lad want? Well, apart from a (still denied) skateboard and Minecraft on the XBox. He continues to spit out wobbly teeth, scoffs (loudly) at his backwards writing sister, and packs away food into his endless bony legs. I want to shrug my shoulders and say I think this is us set now for the next ten years. But obviously it’s not. In ten years time I’ll have a ten foot tall teenager finishing up his last year of school and making actual life decisions. There are bound to be one or two more changes to come.
And this is where I’m less excited about Monday’s birthday than Finn is.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Finn was all mine. The world couldn’t have him yet. He was small, and vulnerable, and he wanted to be close to me just as much as I wanted him to stay close to me. There was a time, not so long ago, when he would cry for me and I would need to go to him. He rarely cries anymore, and even more rarely does he cry for me. He just comes to find me now instead. Where he once needed to clamber up into my arms and snuggle his sweet smelling head into my chest, now he just needs a quick squeeze of reassurance before he’s off again exploring the world around him. It seems the world is winning more of him than me right now. And I KNOW I KNOW, that’s a good thing. Because…. that’s motherhood. But it’s also desperately difficult. Because…. that’s motherhood.
One minute I’m cursing his name under my breath for not being able to do something independently, and the next moment he’s two steps ahead of me and I’m cursing his name for not letting me keep up. It’s not so much that I don’t WANT him to grow up. Obviously I do because he’s an excellent human being and the world will be grateful for him one day. It’s just that I’d really appreciate some forewarning. That’s all. If nothing else so I can make a mental note of the last time’s. Silly I know. Well, silly to anyone apart from a slightly emotionally unprepared mother. But last time’s are important. We all talk about firsts from day one practically. I mean there are whole books devoted to noting baby, toddler and childhood firsts! But no one really takes notice of the last time, because you never know it’s the last time until you realise at some point that your child no longer says or does something. And it can be something so silly, and so insignificant to the rest of the world, but it can still be a realisation that makes you stop for a moment and wonder yourself, what else don’t we do anymore?
I can’t remember the last time Finn and I took a bath together. But it was a while ago, definitely pre-Singapore. Anyway, I don’t think he would want to take a bath with me anymore. So whenever that last one was, with bubble beards and giggles before bedtime, it was a lovely final moment. He’s a hop in the shower solo kinda boy now. And ninety nine percent of the time, maybe more, I’m incredibly thankful that my boy is finding his independence as and when he’s ready to. But there’s that one percent of the time when I’d love to feel a dollop of Finn on my lap again, all solid and compact, and ever so generous with his love and adoration. If I could I would trade one of his wobbly teeth, or one word that he can now read unprompted, in exchange for a toddler cuddle. Just one cuddle that I’d make last longer than the split second I might get the chance to cuddle a selection of scrawny, wriggling, limbs these days. A cuddle in which I would take all of him in, with his huge blue eyes, sticky tufts of strawberry blonde hair and pudgy little hands. A cuddle in which I would bottle up his smell, a mixture of baby shampoo, sweet stickiness and possibly baked beans.
And the more I think about it, the more I realise he’s capable of by himself. The child even informed me the other day that at six years old he will be old enough to learn how to make me a cup of tea. HOW CAN I NOT BREAK INSIDE?! This growing up is such a double edged sword. On the one hand I’m internally crumbling as I silently say goodbye to my baby boy. But then…cups of tea on demand. I mean, what am I supposed to do? The rational adult in me (only a very minor percentage of me, admittedly), is mentally high-fiving myself. Cups of tea (and potentially toast) in bed are goals. But at the same time….MY BABIES!!! And six years went by so, so quickly. It really will be another blink of the eye before the ten foot tall teen is grunting at me.
I have absolutely no idea what Finn’s seventh year will have in store for both of us. But one thing’s for certain. Every time we do something for what should be the last time, I’ll be sure that we do it again. But more slowly, more considered and together. We’ll talk about it, and about what it means. And I’ll remember that moment forever, even if Finn doesn’t. Because… that’s motherhood.