July 23, 2024
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A Million Milestones Until the End

We are cutting my baby boy’s hair soon, because we are shortly arriving at his third birthday. I am worried this means I may no longer be able to call him a baby anymore, but my backup plan is that I will never toilet train him, and so he will have to be a baby forever. This may wreak havoc on his social life, but that will be his future wife’s problem.

I cried my eyes out when I weaned him on his first birthday. It was so painful for me, emotionally, to close that chapter of our lives, to know we’d never have that same physical connection anymore. That soon, his silky baby skin would turn more rough, weathered from age and heat and wind, and he’d no longer find solace and peace under the canopy of my shirt. I would no longer be the sun around which he would orbit, but he’d find other things appealing, alluring and comforting, and would be drawn to those instead. And my body, my female body, had served its purpose on this earth, and was spent.

I know that I’m still beloved by my children but it’s not the same as that wide-eyed stare, the whites of his eyes blinking in the pitch black room, and then the smile, the sheer delight that I’ve come to pick him up even though it’s 2 a.m. and the world still sleeps. Just me and him alone, and everyone else fades away. Like a secret romance, in which time is irrelevant.

But what I told myself then, and I tell myself now, as we near yet another big change in the life of our child, is that there are a million milestones until the end, a million ways to celebrate small things and big things, that we can keep as markers along the road of our lives. It’s like Hansel and Gretel who traverse a vast woods, and drop crumbs of sustenance on their paths to mark where they have come from, only I will put down great big boulders so that they will last, and so that I can always view them if I choose to turn around.

And so we celebrate. Not necessarily with a party, but maybe through a story, or a dance, a batch of sprinkled cupcakes or a family photo. And I can reflect upon my life as a series of these images, these enormous rocks I once meticulously placed, and it will be a map of my life, the happy times, the mile markers. There will be so many of them, as I choose to see each moment with joy instead of sadness, that it will seem like one giant cobblestoned footpath.

I remember the night before I turned 10—I sat on my mother’s bed, waiting for her to finish taking out a load of laundry, and she found me there, silent tears pooling in the corners of my eyes. “What’s wrong?” she asked, inching over next to me, and putting an arm around my shoulders.

“I’m turning 10 tomorrow,” I said, checking my reflection in her mirrored closet door. I portrayed an appropriately sad image. “It’s my last night before I become double digits, forever.” This seemed like a profound moment to me, something earth-shaking. I would forever have to take the extra time to write two digits instead of one, when recording my age. I would never be the same. The next morning, being 10 felt entirely the same as being 9 and 364 days. But in hindsight, that moment had its own stone, it’s own place on the road which I have traveled.

As I continue to watch my children grow, from long hair to short, from diapers to underwear, to losing their thumbs and shedding their childish habits, to bat and bar mitzvahs, from elementary school to high school and everything unimaginable beyond… although these moments pass quickly, I am grounded by the permanent memories I can create, a long, winding path through a vast woods.

By Sarah Abenaim

Sarah Abenaim is a freelance writer living in Teaneck. She can be reached at [email protected].

 

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