Monday, October 25, 2010

A Decade Later

Ten years ago today I walked through the front door of our house in Missouri, cradling my last newborn. Sam and I were greeted by three very excited older siblings, ranging in age from almost 9 to four and a half. We knew from the get go that he would be our last. We’d always talked about having five, then settled on four when we realized we might do better, on all levels, with one less. His birth was celebrated by a whole house full of people would couldn’t wait to watch him grow.

He came to mean different things to each of us. To his big sister, the only girl in our family, he was a real life baby doll. She’d always been nurturing to her other two brothers but this one came along when she was old enough to really participate in his care. The first twelve months of his life I would have never showered, if she hadn’t been willing to rock him through his fussiness for that brief fifteen minutes of every day. The majority of pictures from his first year show him perched on her hip. She settled into the role of his second mommy very comfortably and liked having a brother who hung on her every word and smile.

To Michael, our oldest son, this new baby was another member of his fan club, another little brother to join the pack. Michael knew his way around this role of big brother. He and Isaac had already begun bonding over boy things, like the joys of wrestling and throwing sticks. In the years to come Sam would skip over the baby toys, preferring to play with big boy Hot Wheels over the Fisher Price toys that mom offered.

Isaac was the reluctant big brother at first. We all assumed this last baby would be a girl. Families with four children had two boys and two girls, right? But in a crowded exam room, the ultrasound revealed a surprise. After the technician said the fateful words, “It’s a boy!”, my youngest child got angry. He flashed her a hateful look and said, defiantly, “No! It’s NOT!” He was happily perched in his spot as the baby brother in the family and was not ready to give it up.

But after a few months of rubbing my growing belly and hearing about how fun it would be to be the big brother, he finally came around. The idea of more boy toys flowing into the house with every holiday and birthday didn’t hurt the argument. From the day Sam came home from the hospital, Isaac took to his new role like a champ. Moving from baby status to being the kid who knows the ropes turned out to be kind of fun. Many afternoons when the two big kids were in school, Isaac and Sam had their own time to grow together, playing trucks and building tents with the cushions from the couch.

Sam’s arrival also changed me and Jeff. We geared up to go through the little kid stuff one more time. The high chair came out of storage. Jeff practiced his excellent skills of bouncing, rocking, walking, and swaying, to give me a nightly break from our fussiest baby to date. Then as Sam grew into a toddler and a sunny personality appeared, Jeff had one more little duck following him as he took our kids on hikes through the woods.

And ten years ago this last baby changed me. I learned to be patient when our attempts to get pregnant dragged on for months and I began to wonder if we weren’t meant to have a fourth child after all. And patience when he fussed through his first year of life. I am convinced that God knew I needed confirmation that we were done with procreating and giving me a year of nonstop fussing did the trick.

It was fun to revisit the baby milestones. Having five people clap and cheer when baby smiles for the first time, or takes his first wobbly steps, makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable. From potty training to learning to try new foods, it was nice to have helpers on board. Their encouragement kept him motivated and their excitement at his successes was unbelievably inspiring.

On a deeper level, Sam’s place in our family, as the tail end baby, was a gift to me. I was baby crazy as a kid. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to babysit. My mom often teased that I was ready to sign up to work in the church nursery the year after I graduated from it. I knew that once I’d finished college the mommy years would not be far behind. And each baby was a gift in their own way. Each joined our family at a unique time and had their own special experiences. But having a last baby, to wrap up the family, gave me one last chance to nurture a little person.

For many years Sam was my day time buddy. As big kids crawled onto school buses every morning, Sam and I got ready for our day together. He made going to the grocery store fun as we examined all the new shapes of animal crackers and joyfully received a tiny free cookie from the bakery clerk. Trips to the discount store were more exciting with a little guy, as we ooh and ahhed over the newest holiday decorations. During a time that we were dealing with a lot of big kid issues, Sam’s early years gave me one last taste of that magical time when life is still innocent and sweet. And for that I’ll always be thankful.

He’s now officially a big kid. Ten years is a milestone. But I guess I’m ready to let him grow up. He’s still my baby boy. He always will be. He’s growing taller every day. Losing his little kid look.

So clearly reminding me that time marches on and little kids grow into big kids in the blink of an eye.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

You have summed up well my feelings of our last little one: "But having a last baby, to wrap up the family, gave me one last chance to nurture a little person."

I find that I am different with my last. I wanted my first ones to grow up, regrettably, a little more quickly than I now wish they had. I've learned to cherish the things that might have been bothersome with the others. I am holding on tight to this last little guy. And, it's going by way to fast for my liking!