This morning when I lifted Gryffin out of the car, I noticed how heavy — and long — he felt in my arms. He usually gets out of the car by himself nowadays so it caught me off guard for a moment. I had the urge to hold very, very still, to smell him, feel the weight of him and commit everything about that moment to memory. Now I can’t get it out of my mind. I keep thinking about the way he felt in my arms this morning and my chest hurts.
Remember the post about Isaiah being on the cusp; when I realized that he was moving (fast) toward life as a toddler, no longer a baby but a boy on the move? That’s sort of what life with Gryffin feels like these days. Like he’s on the cusp. But on the cusp of what, I’m not sure. With Isaiah we have at least some sense of what’s coming, what’s up ahead. But with our firstborn we often feel like we’re peering out and peeking around the corner with Gryffin, trying to see what comes next. It’s a little scary. And, of course, a little sad. For how excited we are to see what’s up around the bend, we’ve got to leave so many sweet things behind in order to get there.
I remember resting in Gryffin’s room one afternoon before he was born, the sun shining in on me. Sitting there in his room, the room that was just waiting for him with me and feeling him move around inside me, it struck me that nobody else in all the world would ever feel him inside their body. I was the only one. The very thought of that connection between us gave me pause and I had the sudden desire to hold him inside me forever. But at the same time, I was getting so eager to see him on the outside of my body, to see what he looked like and smelled like and felt like. I could hardly stand to wait any longer. But in order to hold him on the outside of my body, I would have to give up holding him on the inside of my body. It was a trade-off and I now know that so many aspects of parenting are like that. Trading one thing for another. Trading those adorable bow-legged first steps so that you can watch them run through the grass and jump in the leaves. Trading the chubby-handed baby signs so that you can hear those first words. It’s the way it’s supposed to be, this trading, this moving forward. And what devastation would be mine if my boys did not move along in this fashion. But it’s hard, yeah? Painful and joyful both.
Gryffin stopped sucking his fingers last month. When we were in California for Christmas, my sister’s oldest, Hannah, rode in the car with us for one of our many outings and Jason asked her when and why she had stopped sucking her fingers. She said that she didn’t want to suck them at school and that the dentist told her it was bad for her teeth. That was the extent of the conversation. We moved on to other topics. But about a week after getting home, Jason and I noticed that Gryffin hadn’t been sucking his fingers. Jason thought this was good news but I didn’t want it to be true. He has always sucked his fingers. It’s his thing. How could he just stop, cold turkey? Without even mentioning it to us? After 2 weeks, I finally decided to ask him about it.
Me: Gryff, I’ve noticed you haven’t been sucking your fingers lately? How come, bud? Did something happen?
Gryff: (kind of wistful) Well, Hannah said it ruins your teeth (big sigh) so I thought I should stop…
—then he just stared at me for a loooong moment and said quietly “if you tell me to, I will.”
And I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to tell him to go ahead, to just suck them for the rest of his life. It almost crushed me to say… “Well, bud, it’s up to you. Seems like you’ve worked really hard to stop sucking them…” to which he replied “yeah, I’ll keep stopping.”
I know that this is a good thing. I do. Every kid has to stop sometime. But it’s just such a tangible, noticeable, sign of him growing up. And I don’t feel ready for it. I thought it would be this long, drawn-out process when he started kindergarten, maybe. That he would decide it was time and together we’d come up with all sorts of tactics to help him stop. I never imagined that he would just stop on his own.
When Gryffin was about 13 months and I was 4 months pregnant with Isaiah, we were at REI waiting for Jason to rent some snowshoes. Gryffin was content in the stroller (sucking his fingers, naturally) so I just leaned against a wall and we waited there together. There was this man who was standing nearby. He looked to be in his 50s and he was looking at us intently– at Gryffin mostly. I was just starting to feel uncomfortable and wondering if we should move along when I realized that he was crying. Before I could say anything, he shook his head and apologized and said “I used to have a little guy who looked just like that… he got married yesterday… anyway, have fun with him” and he slowly walked away.
I think I will always remember that man. His pain was so palpable. I woke up later that night, the house all silent and still around me, and I wept thinking about him, realizing that I will be in that same place some day; gazing upon a little boy with his mama, and aching for days gone by. At least I hope I will. As loathe as I am to let go of of our wild and wonderful little boys, I hope that we will live to one day see them married and living into the men that we hope them to be. It will be a trade-off, that is for certain, but I still hope we get there.
The other night I slipped quietly into the boys room around 2am to do Isaiah’s inhaler and while I was hunched over the lower bunk, I heard a familiar sound and held really, really still. I slowly stood up to see Gryffin sucking his fingers in his sleep. Some habits die hard. I stayed and watched him for a long while. My sweet boy on the cusp of so many wonderful things. But I miss seeing him suck those silly fingers… I really do, and I was so, so glad to get to see him like that one last time.