|Apparently, they're dressed up as me.|
Not babies. Little girls. Children.
Something in their brains has switched- they don't act like babies trying to get good at being little kids... they act like little kids.
They have tea parties. They play pretend games, with stories that they act out. Their functional vocabularies are staggering to somebody who can remember when it was a huge deal that they said "mama" or "dada." When one of them stammers a bit, trying to find the right word, they know that it's there somewhere... and it is.
Their memories of recent events, and not so recent events, blows my mind.
If I mention snow, they tell me all about when Daddy made a snow ball and threw it "way up high in the air!" That was months ago.
DD actually corrects me if I make a silly statement, like "You're a monkey!" "I not a monkey, "she says, "I a little girl!"
And it's true.
|Only robots and R2 units are invited to the tea party.|
I think part of it is that I always get nostalgic when it comes time to switch them into the next size of clothes. They're pretty much too big for their 2T stuff now, and for the first time I don't actually have a full wardrobe waiting for them once they're out of the current set of pajamas. I go through all the new clothes and I think, "That can't be right, that shirt is huge." But then, so are my girls. I go through their closet and their drawers, pulling out everything that is simply too small now; the dresses that hardly go past their bottoms, the pants that show every millimeter of their ankles, the shirts that they keep tugging past their belly buttons, the sweaters with sleeves that don't reach their wrists...
It's been almost a year since I switched their clothes. Almost a year since I swapped out their 18 month stuff for the improbably large 2T wardrobe.
And this time, we're also getting ready to bring home a new baby.
Instead of putting away the clothes into storage and donation boxes, I'm putting clothes into boxes to donate or for Baby X. "When Baby X is wearing this shirt, my little monkeys are going to be in kindergarten," I keep muttering to myself.
They have some 3T pajamas that are identical to their 12 month pajamas. If Baby X is a big baby, there's a slim chance that I might have them in matching PJs for a week or two.
|In the last year, those owls have been loved to death.|
Baby X, still snug in my womb, who will be walking around the same time she gets pajamas to match her big sisters'.
SI likes to joke with me about the baby. "There is no baby in mommy's tummy! Baby in mommy's nose! Baby in mommy's hair! Baby in mommy's knee!"
DD likes to talk to the baby. "Hello, little sister! Hello baby!" she says, sitting on my lap and waving at my belly button. She seems sure that the baby is actually in my belly button, and not inside my big round belly.
I get to have conversations with my daughters. They tell me about their day, about their week, about the people they like, about their favorite colors and animals and foods... They sing songs, they play games, they express themselves remarkably.
Today, as SI began to have her regular mid-day meltdown, DD looked at me and said, "It naptime, mommy!" and scampered off to her room to climb into her bed, while SI wailed, "I don't want get in my bed! I want sleep in mommy daddy bed!"
As DD collected the ever important frog lovies for herself and her sister, she explained to me, "SI very sad, mommy. She don't want to take a nap." "Do you want to take a nap?" "Yes mommy! It naptime!"
|Cooking is very important business.|
Today, they sang Aunt Genocide a very impressive rendition of "Bingo."
I know, none of this is exactly earth shattering. None of this is unexpected. But at the same time, it is. They keep growing, and learning, and while it's happening you're too busy helping them to learn, too busy being so proud of each individual accomplishment, that you don't realize the whole of what's going on. You don't see that each of those little victories is accumulating, tipping the scale until suddenly you just don't have babies anymore. You're missing the forest for the trees.
And then suddenly, something as simple as your daughter, wearing pigtails and looking like a mid-80s child TV star in her legwarmers and dayglo green dress, takes off her shoes all by herself and tells you that she saw a jellyfish and it was upside down, and now she's going to play 'So Big,' okay mommy? See- I took off my shoes!
And then both of them stand up on the living room chairs, chairs that it seems like only yesterday (it must have been only yesterday) they could barely scramble onto, and they throw their arms in the air and shout out, "I so big!"
Then they climb down, crouch on the floor and whisper, "Now I tiny!"
And then back onto the chairs, proclaiming, "I so big!" as they laugh and laugh and laugh. "I not tiny anymore!"
|Two years ago, they were tiny|
And DD proclaims, "I want to jump on you!"
And SI joins in, "I want to hug you!"
And you throw your arms wide open for your big, big girls to run in and hug you as tightly as they can, because they're not tiny anymore. And you have no idea how long you have left before jumping on you, giving you hugs and kisses and nuzzles and snuggles, before all of that is something that only babies do to their mommies and daddies. You have no idea how long you have before you're switching their wardrobes out again, but this time with two little girls trailing you in the store, demanding clothes covered in characters you don't recognize and bearing slogans you find offensive. You don't know how long you have before switching out their wardrobes means giving them each some money and dropping them off at the mall.
You don't know how long you have left for any of it.
Last week, whenever DD demanded, "I do it myself!" I glowed a little inside. So proud.
This week, when she casually takes off her own clothes for bed, I can't stop myself from being shocked.
Who taught her that? I wonder. Who taught her how to be a little girl?
|DD's goofy grin|
When SI wakes up after a nightmare and calls out, "I want my mommy!" knowing that I can hear her, and that I will come...
When she greets me after my morning on campus with, "You not at school anymore! You came home! I love you!"
When DD says, "I don't want to eat my noodles. I want ice cream!"
When SI proclaims, "I a goof ball!" And DD chimes in, "I a goof ball too, mommy!"
I put my hands on my stomach to keep myself from crying a little. Because it's not over. I have another one on the way. Another one who will be here soon. Another baby I can teach and watch and try desperately to protect from ever growing up, while desperately helping to grow up the best that she can.
But it will be so different. Because DD and SI... they look up to me. I am their hero, their example, their ideal.
But for Baby X? It will be DD and SI. I will always come second to them when it comes to being the coolest person around. And DD and SI will love their new baby. They'll love to teach her, to show her their books, to help her learn. She'll want to dress like them, not me. She'll want to play games with them, not me. And by the time she's their age, and she wants to show them how big she is and how many things she can do, they'll be bored by her and think that it's annoying that I make them pretend they think it's the most amazing thing ever.
|SI's faraway stare|
My heart breaks with all the things I know I've forgotten about my children, about their babyhood. I can remember in my fingers how soft the skin on their necks was as they slept in my arms. I can remember in my shoulder the slimy wet spots from where they would latch on and giggle, drooling furiously. I remember deep in my gut the way I felt when they would laugh their tiny baby laughs.
But I can't describe it. Most of my memories are replaced by memories of photographs, of home movies.
Instead, I could tell you every detail about them now. About the beauty mark that has appeared on DD's cheek. About how incredibly blue SI's eyes are when she's daydreaming. About how much I love them.
I love them so much.
No child could ever replace them, replace their babyhood. Baby X can't take their first two years away, ever. She will have her own infancy, her own toddlerdom. I'll love her as much as any mother could ever love their child. Just as I love SI and DD.
|Tiny- two and a half years ago|
My children, they were tiny last month. Or maybe it was last year. Or maybe it was longer ago than that.
But they're not tiny anymore.
Now it's Baby X's turn to be tiny.
And then it will be time for my heart to begin breaking anew, all over again, as she also becomes big.
And all that will be left of my babies will be those gigantic, goofy monsters, with their dress up clothes and their robot tea parties, singing songs of their own invention, and needing me only to reach the snacks on the high shelves in the kitchen. Moving farther and farther away from me into the horizon. Growing each day, while to them I remain eternally their mother... unchanged in my role for their life.
In the end, I think I might be the tiny one. One day relearning what I actually do with my own time, what I'm actually like when I'm not dangling children upside down for the pleasure of the cacophony of laughter. What I'm like when I'm not constantly keeping an ear out for my name, which used to be Lea but now is "mommy."
I miss my babies. I am terrified and anxious to meet my new baby.
|Only 8 months ago|
I wish they would slow down for just a minute. Just let me hold them and kiss them and smell them and memorize every single inch of them. But they don't. And no matter how I tried when they were different, when they were smaller and there was somehow more and less to forget, I did forget.
I wish I could freeze time for a week, for a day, and do nothing but count their toes and run my fingers through their incredibly soft curls. I wish I could hug them, and just hold onto them for a few hours and remember.
I wish I could explain to them how much they mean to me. But it would be pointless. They know how much I adore them...
I'm their mommy.
It's the only explanation that they need.
|Mommy and daughter, exit stage right|
Or, to sum up this whole experience in somebody else's words...
Mother, oh Mother,
come shake out your cloth,
empty the dustpan,
poison the moth,
hang out the washing
and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house
is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery,
Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little
Boy Blue (lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done
and there's nothing for stew
and out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
but I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
The cleaning and scrubbing
will wait till tomorrow,
for Children grow up,
as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs.
Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby,
and babies don't keep.