I walked into a family gathering yesterday afternoon and my attention was immediately drawn to my sister-in-law. She was holding her seven week old grandson. She looked at me and asked, “Do you want to hold him?”
“Of course,” I said, reaching for the little guy. I gathered him up on my shoulder and secured him against me with one hand against his back and the other under his butt. He scootched his little legs up underneath himself and took a moment to settle. I’m sure he was wondering who was this person who did not smell at all like Mom. He squeaked and tried to decide which way to lay his head. With my palm against his back and my fingers splayed behind his neck and head, I immediately fell into the bouncy-sway that always settled my own kids when they were babies. The little guy soon grew heavy. I checked him out in a nearby mirror and saw that he had fallen asleep.
We were both as content as could be, the little guy and me. I don’t know that there’s a much better feeling in this world than cuddling a sleeping baby, his fists bunched up against you and his cheek nestled into your neck.
I looked at his mom, our niece, and smiled, finding it hard to believe that this new mother was one of the flower girls in our wedding just a few years ago … or twenty-four years ago today, to be exact. We stood talking while little guy slept against me. My niece said she’d have to go back to work in a week and I frowned and told her I was sorry. I remember being a new mom and the way I suddenly saw the world through new eyes, the way I suddenly became a different person. Becoming a mom makes you infinitely more aware, conscious of the world in a way you’ve never been before. A protector. I remember moments after giving birth, feeling a love so strong I could never have imagined it before.
Several times, my niece and my sister-in-law offered to take the baby off my hands. I told them to eat. I was more than happy to hold the little guy while they enjoyed their meal. I really was. In fact, were it not for a sense of guilt that I was monopolizing him when there were others who wanted to hold him, I would have been happy to hang out with him all afternoon.
It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was the one wondering when I’d enjoy a full night’s sleep again, when I’d get to eat a hot meal, or when I could sit and read a book uninterrupted. Now that little girl who walked down the aisle at my wedding is wondering the same things, while I sit in a quiet house and wonder what my “babies” are doing as they are off living their own lives.
So what do you do when you reach this point in your life, when your babies have grown up and don’t need you like they used to? You sit back and enjoy watching others enjoy the parenthood adventure. You marvel at how things have changed and you remember all the fun you had raising babies. You remember too how it wasn’t always all rainbows and sunshine and are glad that gone are the days of four year-olds flooding the bathroom while your husband is away at work and unavailable to help clean up the mess.
You take advantage of the fact that those in the midst of their child-rearing days are more than happy to let you entertain their kids for a while. You take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to be the parent, the disciplinarian. You can just be the goofball auntie who gets down on the floor and plays silly games with a kid who is craving some attention.
Nephew Ryan is always more than happy to pose for the camera…
And at the end of the day, you can fall into bed with little doubt that a full night’s sleep awaits you.