our youngest son, tate, turned SEVEN in march. SEVEN! it’s hard to believe it has already been seven years since he was born, seven years since we were 3rd-time parents of a newborn baby boy. good lord. as much as i love babies, i’m grateful for those seven years. i’m thankful that our youngest is old enough to be in 1st grade, to be independent in so many ways, and to be old enough to keep up with the rest of us. he is a remarkable boy.
tate is the baby of our family, and as such, he is what you might expect — the rough n tough, stick up for himself, “i can do that just the same as you,” ahead-of-his-time kind of kid. he learned to ride his bike faster than his brothers and will catch up to them quickly in his swimming abilities. he is braver than his brothers in many ways. impressively, he is usually the first one of the three to remember to clear his dishes after dinner, and he can perform his bathroom-cleaning duties as well as, or better, than his 9-year-old and 13-year-old brothers. tate will mix himself a cup of gatorade or tea and get his own snacks. like most babies of the family, he likes to joke and tell stories and make the rest of us laugh around the dinner table. he is a funny guy and the life of the party. he also is a bit of an anomaly — tate doesn’t like to be the center of attention at school. he likes to put his head down and work hard and do everything right. he is good at math and reading and does well in school, but he doesn’t like to be in the spotlight in that setting. he doesn’t like going to school with a new haircut, or in costume, because he doesn’t like the attention it could attract. tate was chosen as one of a handful of 1st graders to read his [short] essay in a partial school assembly, and he dreaded it! i was so proud of him for going through with it because i knew just how much he didn’t want to be up in front of that crowd. in fact, earlier in the year, he had opted to make a video at home with his dad instead of making an in-person presentation in his first grade class…
tate is a sweetie-pie. he’s the kid who makes sure to say, “i love you. goodnight!” or “i love you. goodbye!” depending on whether we’re tucking him into bed at night or dropping him off for school in the morning, and waits for us to say it back. actually, he says it twice, to each of us. four times without fail. i’m not sure whether he just has an innate need to express his love for us, if it’s learned behavior, or if it’s some kind of OCD tendency, but he is pretty adamant about it. but what parent would ever complain about their child saying “i love you” too much? certainly not me!
tate is growing up fast. i’m shocked sometimes by the big-kid things that he says, or the long words he is able to read without hesitation. (or the other day in the car, when he started singing along to the radio-song, and he knew every single word.) there seems to be a subtle & quiet continual thought in the back of my head reminding me that he is growing up. that’s why i’m grateful for those moments when he still needs me. when he gets hurt or is mad (aka furious) at his brothers and i’m able to hold him and comfort him and cheer him up. those moments when a hug or a kiss or a cuddle with mom will make everything better. or when the thing that he really wants to spend his saved-up money on is a stuffed animal. those are the moments when i’m reminded that he is only seven after all. that he still is my baby.
i’m learning something about myself as a mother lately. and maybe it’s just because life is changing for me and for my family, which is another story for another day. but i feel more aware than usual of time passing. i’m more cognizant of time moving forward and each day that is here, then gone. i’m feeling bittersweet about several endings and new beginnings on the horizon. that horizon keeps inching closer and closer. my senses are heightened. and in the midst of all the change, i’m keenly aware of my youngest, my baby boy, growing up, too. and i don’t want to miss it in a sea of distractions. every morning that i bring my boys to elementary school, we hug and say goodbye. “have a great day, we’ll see you after the bus.” lincoln hugs us at the car and runs off to play with friends before the bell. sometimes we walk tate onto the playground and stand around for a bit, sometimes we hug and say our goodbyes at the gate. regardless, i watch my baby boy turn and walk away. i think to myself, “there goes my baby. off to school.” and just like a first-time kindergarten parent, i blink away the tears and head off into my day. and i know what it is. it is a gift of God’s grace that i can wrap tate’s “i love you. goodbye! i love you. goodbye!” around me as i go.
tate, you are no longer a baby. but you will always be my baby. you will always be mine. what a gift you are to dad & me. we have been given the privilege and the joy of watching you grow up. and of being loved by you. we love you right back!