We took the last high chair away at dinner time.
Not while cleaning out. Not in the midst of a mid-afternoon wander around the house, taking care of those things we meant to do but never quite did. Not, as I usually do, after weeks of working up to it, mourning the loss of it before it’s actually gone so that the actual removal doesn’t hurt as badly.
No, we took it right out from under him between bites of chicken. At his request, of course. We moved it to the corner (because I can look past its placement and emptiness and still think of it as a thing we’ll use) and moved one of our spare dining table chairs in it’s place. He hopped on, smiled big, and that was that.
The big high chair sayonara came at the end of his first day of potty training. After a day of wearing undies and telling me on every trip to the bathroom, “Me big. Me go potty!” (The caveman speak and frequent accidents did little to convince me that he isn’t just as big as he thinks he is, growing just as rapidly as he wants to). It came just hours after her last Daisy meeting. The last time I dropped her off at the big school in the big kid classroom for just an hour because soon she’ll spend all day long in that kind of room, surrounded by desks and backpacks. (The way she clung to me as I tried to leave did little to convince me that she is not just as big as she thinks she is, growing more and more independent every day). It was promptly followed by discussion of the next big goodbye – the crib. We all sat there on the same kind of chair, using the same kind of forks, all of us wearing underwear (which oddly feels like the thing that makes us equals) and we talked about his big boy bed.
And we stared at them for a minute. Because yikes, there they are. People. Little people growing real fast and growing all the time but most of the time we don’t realize it. So when the moment smacks you in the face, when suddenly you look and realize that they’re just a bit bigger, just a bit older today than they were yesterday, you have to stop and stare. Just for a minute. Take it all in. Savor it, the wonder of them and everything you know that came before to get you to this moment, just for a breath. Because, of course, in the next minute there will be bickering because her hand is on his chair or whining because she doesn’t want to eat, or wet undies because it’s still day 1, or any of a dozen things that remind you that yes, they are growing real fast and growing all the time but they are still small and young and babies in the grand scheme of things. Soon you’ll have no need for diapers.com. Soon the crib you watched arrive with anticipation, holding your big belly and feeling excited and terrified all at the same time, will be reduced to a collection of pieces and handed off to someone else. Soon sitting together at dinner, all of you wearing underwear and sitting on chairs without buckles won’t be such a novel thing. It will be the thing you do and it will be comfortable and exciting and amazing because it will be the kind of family moment you dreamed of. Soon these things will happen but today, we’re still in the middle of the ride.
It’s been, and will continue to be, one of those years for our family. One of those in which all of the ‘soons’ become ‘nows.’ One of those in which big changes happen at a dizzying rate, all of us reaching and growing and changing and taking on big things. Our growth curves won’t level out until 2015 comes to a close, when we’re three months into first grade and preschool, several months into new jobs and more time spent on career, half a year without the baby supplies tucked into every corner of our home. It seems wild and crazy that so much will be packed into just one year, that just six months from now, our life will look completely different than it did when we toasted to the new year. That right this very minute we’re grown in some places and completely unchanged in others and we’re feeling the awkward growing pains here caught in mid-transformation. But this seems to be the way with young ones. So much growth happens in these first handfuls of years, our little people morph right before our eyes and we have no choice but to change right along side them, experiencing the pain and the beauty of it all.
I used to run to escape the pain of it all. I used to close my eyes and pretend nothing had changed until everything was done and the change seemed irrelevant because the new routines and ways and feelings had already taken their place. Of course, in running to escape the pain, I also evaded the beauty. The pain and the beauty are a bit like play dough, you know? You try to keep the colors separate but really, they are meant to be melded and mixed and blended. And once you bring them together, there is no getting them apart.
So these days, I’m working hard to let myself feel it all. I’m taking a minute when the realizations hit and I’m letting my heart ache at goodbyes and farewells and sayonaras. I’m letting the ache linger and I’m sitting with it, even curling up in it a little. When I remember that tomorrow starts her last two weeks of Kindergarten, her last two weeks in the sweet little school where she has grown so much and that has loved her and nurtured her, I don’t push away the pain of saying goodbye. I let the pain mingle with the delight that, today, it’s not over yet. When I count the number of days I have left at home with him, playing away the hours and living the sweet, toddler life, I linger in the sadness. I linger and smile because, it’s not over yet. I mix it all together because I’m starting to realize that letting myself feel every feeling that goes along with it all is the only way to really live it.