Michelle Martin

When are they not little?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A friend told me the other day that I don’t have any little ones any more. He said it as we sat in the kitchen over coffee, Teresa running in and out, asking me to fix this and fasten that. Caroline was already gone for the day; Frank, suddenly keeping a teenager’s schedule, was sleeping in.

In a lot of ways, Teresa isn’t a baby anymore, at least not in the way the world sees babies. She walks and talks (and talks and talks ...). She has opinions and expresses them. She tries to help when she can, and sometimes when she can’t. She’ll be going to preschool in the fall, and when she had her first skating lesson — her first lesson of any kind where her dad or I did not accompany her through the whole thing — her reaction was to get halfway across the ice, turn and wave, and keep going.

And yet, it seems just yesterday that we brought her home from the hospital. The picture of Frank holding her, all swaddled up, when she was a day or two old, has become a favorite, but every time we have to tell her that the baby in the blanket is her.

She still loves to cuddle up, whether to watch a movie or read books or just drift off to sleep, and getting to nap on Mama and Daddy’s bed instead of her own is a treat for her. She often will say, out of the blue, “I love you, Mama,” and one day I felt the force of her attachment when I implied that she would not always live with us.

She had asked where her Daddy was, and I said he went to visit her grandmother, his mommy. And I asked if when she was a grownup lady she would come and visit me. The look on her face clearly communicated that what I had said did not compute with her, and I reassured her that she could always live with us, as long as she wanted to.

Caroline used to say she would always live with us, too. Now she’s talking about colleges, and seems to be looking forward to getting out of the house as much as getting to study what she wants. That’s great, really. That’s exactly where a teenager should be.

It also seems like a blink of an eye since Caroline was Teresa’s age. I think Teresa will have an easier time starting school; because of her brother and sister, she’s been out and about more, and understands and accepts that children do go to school, and then they come home, and she is willing to join them. What might come as more of a shock is that other children her own age don’t act like her older siblings, in that they won’t basically play her games her way, just to keep the peace.

But she’ll adjust. She’s already got the idea that different things happen in different places. She noted this weekend that we sing story time songs at story time at the library, and church songs at church.

To me, she’ll always be little. Even when, like Caroline, she’s taller than me.