There are weird happenings around the Conway residence these days. Not only does Danny know who Justin Bieber is, he sings the song. No more “Good Night Moon “or even “Good Night Gorilla”. Now it is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” or, worse yet, “Captain Underpants” (well, at least it was Underpants until I decided to ‘lose’ any such books before we got home from the library). There is begging for a Wii, a refusal to wear his “I Love Mom” shirt any time other than the weekends. A disgust at eating anything his sister’s lips may have already touched. And there is that crush on his kindergarten teacher, who I must say would meet my approval in twenty some odd years.
Yes, my firstborn baby, the one I fussed over, worried about too much (OK, still worry about too much), the one I would never let just have a tantrum in the corner, would always have his nails clipped at regular intervals, the one with the rashy red cheeks and cowlicky hair, well, he is a baby no more. He isn’t even a toddler or a preschooler. He is a real live boy.
I can’t say I saw it coming. Sure, he has been getting older, but so have his two younger siblings. And with three kids and two working parents, there is a lot of noise and chaos in our house. It feels I was searching under the couch for his favorite Elmo doll and somehow, when I looked up and emerged with the toy, he was sitting across the room, cross-legged at the kitchen table writing one of his stories about his battles against Team JA (aka Jay and Annie).
I have to say that I feel the same love, the same animalistic pull of protection, that I have always felt towards my boy. And I guess in many ways our relationship is still the same. We still joke, we still (thankfully) hug, we still cuddle and read stories at night. He still likes the same foods—and I do find it a blessing that he can now eat them without wearing them. He has the same sense of humor, the same cowlick, the same secret Danny mark of a tiny freckle under his chin to prove that he is indeed my boy.
But a boy he is now. He’s gotten lanky where once he went off the charts in chubbiness. He loves to climb and jump, where once he wouldn’t take a step without holding my hand. He has play dates without me, secrets with friends that he doesn’t always tell me (although he often caves), struggles with school work rather than the potty. He has more sophisticated jokes and has clear dreams for his future (which currently include being an archeologist, but only one exactly like Indiana Jones). He is processing everything around him and is curious about my life, my childhood, and even where his daddy and I met (although I recently discovered that while I told him we worked together at Macromedia, he actually thought I meant McDonald’s). He takes everything at school to heart. Recent Earth Day activities at school have resulted in a water sprinkler and plastic bag ban at my home. Thanks for the education, Ms. Benny—just wait till you have to live with him!
And here is my ultimate proof that my baby is gone. He has stopped calling his equipment his “peanut” (his word after our attempt to actually teach him “penis” at a young age) and has started referring to it as his “wiener”.
When I was pregnant with Danny a co-worker gave me the book “Love You Forever”. I remember sitting up in the nursery, in my new glider rocker, hugely pregnant and hugely happy, and just crying hysterically reading that book. In fact, although it is on Danny’s shelf, I have yet to read it to him because just thinking of it makes me cry. I frankly don’t know how six and a half years have already passed since that day. Some days I almost find it hard to remember what exactly we did on a regular old day when he was a baby. Sometimes I almost find it hard to remember what his little voice sounded like. But I remember the little moments, like how he would start moving when he was still in my belly once I settled into my train seat on my way to work. How he would twist his hair while he drank from his sippy cup. How he loved to snuggle in bed with me and Daddy in the mornings, cheeks flushed and body warm in his little footie pajamas.
And I remember the moment when my parents had left and Dan had gone back to work, my very first day all alone with Danny. I remember putting him on the bed and lying down next to him. I said to him, more than a bit panicked, “Well, here we are. We’re all alone now. So, what will we do next?”
Next has been so amazing so far. So many tiny moments of holding hands, riding trains, dancing in the kitchen to the old CD player, swimming in the river, shooting the Wolf Man, doing "run for your life" away from ocean waves, mastering the monkey bars, cooking soup, reading stories, kissing boo-boos, chasing away nightmares, sharing our dreams, riding in the car to endless parties, classes and errands.
Today Danny lost his top front tooth. It had been hanging on by a thread for days and he finally yanked it out at school, apparently surrounded by a group of very impressed friends. As I held that tooth tonight, I realized that although it looked so big in his mouth, it was so tiny in my hand. And I remembered watching that tooth grow in, waiting so excitedly for more and more teeth to join it. How can they be leaving so soon?
So now I help him prepare for the tooth fairy, watching him write a note with an arrow to leave on top of his pillow just in case she gets confused where his tooth is, and also a note to put next to the tooth, all wrapped in toilet paper, with some special instructions. His note asked that she leave the tooth for him to keep because it is a big one and it is really very special.
As I laid with him for a moment, running my fingers over that same old cowlick, feeling his little heat beat against mine, I couldn’t agree more.
Although I do have to wonder what we’re going to do with all those baby teeth.