Braden has proclaimed these words to me probably a dozen times in the past 24 hours.
Granted, my mom and step-dad are visiting right now, so this phrase has been used in the context of: "I finally have someone here to give me their undivided attention, so take my baby brother and get out of here."
I'm not taking it personally. But still, it makes me think - is this just the tip of the iceberg? Am I on the cusp of becoming embarrassing and annoying? Does it really happen this early?
I can't help but marvel at how quickly time has gone by. What happened to my baby?
Somehow, he became a little boy.
I realized the other day that it has been a long time since Braden and I have done anything just the two of us. Since having Casey, when we adults divide and conquer, I am usually left with Casey, while my husband (or adult visitor) usually takes Braden. This practice initially started because I was breastfeeding, and has continued a bit out of habit. Casey still prefers to take a bottle from me, and at this point in time, I still know Casey like no one else. I know his quirks, the meaning of his yawns, the face he makes when he needs to eat. My husband is learning these, slowly but surely. But still, the result has been that Braden and I have been missing a lot of one on one time.
Since my mom is here this week, I decided to take some quality time with Braden yesterday while she babysat Casey. In the morning, we went to Turtle Park in Northwest DC. Last summer, Turtle Park was our daily hangout. It was fun and exhausting and hot and all the more so because I was 7 months pregnant. Since having Casey, we have been a handful of times, but always with the stroller in tow. It just hasn't been the same.
So yesterday, we went back to our old haunt. It was just like old times - but different. Last summer, I spent the bulk of our time at the park chasing after Braden and saving his life. I could never socialize with other moms, because Braden was all over the place - he was definitely a "runner." Yesterday it was so easy. Too easy. If I told Braden to stay by me, he would. He wanted to swing, but didn't want me to push him. He climbed up the climbing wall and needed no assistance, and went to the slide without scaring the life out of me by teetering towards the one open space where he could fall. When we left, he gave me no trouble, and walked with me hand in hand.
In the afternoon, we went to our neighborhood pool. Instead of going to the baby pool, Braden willfully put on his life jacket and swam in the deep water for over half an hour. I held his hands as he climbed out of the pool, only to jump back in, cannon ball style. He even told me when he had to use the potty (I guess he hasn't figured out that he can pee in the water - hopefully he never does).
In so many ways, Braden is easier to handle now. He certainly has a strong will, and an affinity for throwing tantrums. But he walks steady. Uses the bathroom. Makes it known when he is hungry. Expresses his opinions. And tell his mommy to "Get away!" when he doesn't want me around.
I am lucky that Braden is still very much a cuddler, and a momma's boy. Every morning he'll climb into bed with me, caress my head, and smother me with kisses. He tells me over and over how much he loves me. It is my favorite time of day with him.
Despite his tantrums and demands for me to leave a room, I know that I am his favorite person in the world. His best friend. His confidant. His source of love. When he falls down, I'm the one he calls. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, it's me he wants. And most of his tantrums stem from the fact that he has to share me with someone else - whether it be Casey, my husband, or my computer.
I know this won't last forever, but I can't believe it won't. How will I ever get over losing this little boy?
I suppose this is every mother's struggle, and one that I will just have to deal with. And while I mourn the loss of each passing day, I am cognizant that I also need to celebrate the amazing person he is becoming. Because he is pretty awesome.
I know I won't always be his best friend. Or even the person he loves the most. But I'll always be his mom. And I'll always miss my baby.