Last night was different from all the ones that have come before it. As I held my 364-day-old daughter close, I sensed her gentle transformation out of the world of “baby” and into one-year-old toddlerdom as I nursed her, and at the same time felt myself grow up as a parent too.
The moment a child turns one a secret change takes place; so secret, in fact, that it surprises many a mom who aren’t watching for it. In frame their child may appear same as the day before, but the “baby” part of them somehow begins falling away. At one year of age a child no longer requires milk as their primary form of nutrition; they take steps toward walking (if they haven’t taken off already) and embrace the new whole world at their fingertips; their vocabulary begins to explode (and often quadruples by the time they reach 2!).
Well, I am a very experienced second-time mom, and I was prepared for this secret change! But what I didn’t see coming was one of the most precious parenting moments I’ve experienced to date.
Nursing is always a part of our bedtime routine; the girls each take a turn at “Mama’s milk,” all-the-while we rock, sing, and say bed-time prayers as a family. Then they go down sweetly and peacefully. Yes, really! (But something must take place in the wee hours of the night, because the four of us mysteriously wake up snuggling in the same bed the next morning… not that I’m complaining!)
Well, last night Darla didn’t want to nurse before bed. In fact, she straight-up refused. What’s more, she hadn’t wanted to nurse all day! A part of me wondered if this was the new one-year-old saying, “I don’t need this anymore, Mom, I’m big now.” But the other part of me knew the truth – she’d be crying 20 minutes later, realizing she actually did want the mama milk wagon.
So, yeah… 20 minutes later that cry came. I found myself wishing she had just nursed earlier instead of interrupting me from my first “break” of the day. But as I walked into her room and started to pick her up out of her crib, I was hit with new perspective. No, literally. I had never seen her look like that before. Was that moonlight bouncing off of her face and onto the wall??
Fantastically, Clementine must have reached out of her own bed earlier and pulled open one of their curtains, leaving what I could only describe as a magical beam of night-sky-light flooding into the room. And as I sat down in the rocking chair with that 364-day-old in tow, I realized the “experienced mom” in me had gotten it all wrong; this night-nurse session wasn’t about Darla’s grown up self not needing me anymore, it was about us getting the opportunity to intimately share the last moments of her “baby” life together.
It may sound ridiculous to some, me recounting this moment as magical. After all, we were just sitting there in a rocking chair breastfeeding – No biggie. But as I rubbed my fingers through her hair and felt her adorable little ears and chubby arms, swayed to the rhythm of the lullabies softly playing, and soaked in that magical moonlight as she drank, I realized that we rarely get to nurse like this anymore. Life is busy now, loud, active, crowded; but this moment wasn’t.
The night glow revealed even the finest, smallest hairs on Darla’s still face, and it reminded me of feeding her as a newborn. Some kind of slide show of her first year played through my mind and I recalled — no treasured– each thought. As her body shifted in my arms I had a flashback of rocking Clementine in that very same chair, similar in age and size, the night I went into labor unexpectedly with Darla.
After a while I placed her back in bed, soundly sleeping. Every part of me wanted to pick her up again and scream, “DON’T DO IT! Don’t grow up! Just let me rock you forever!”
Where had the time gone?! And then, in that moment, I grew as a mom. I placed my hand on the still of her back, said a prayer over my sweet child, and rejoiced. The time hadn’t gone anywhere. It was still there, HERE, building, growing, developing into trust, relationship, passion, bond. I then understood I would know her better tomorrow than today, and love her still all the more. Our times would only accumulate now into an even more beautiful story.
I took my hand off of her back, stepped away, stole one more glance of my starlit beauty, and pulled shut the curtain. And as I tiptoed out the door with welling eyes and an over-sized smile, I felt proud of my one-year-old, growing “toddler,” and I can only pray that over the years I grow as much as she does.