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Why you should carry your kindergartner on your hip

MOTHER AND CHILDREN
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... one last time.

Go ahead, scoop up your 5-year-old – just one last time – before he leaves your arms for his first ride on the school bus and then, in the blink of an eye, for college. Because soon it will be physically impossible. 

You may have to insist she first stand on a chair to pull off this worthwhile feat, and it’s probably wise not to walk around. I don’t want you to actually herniate anything. But rather, I want you to cherish a special moment while you can, because too many others have already drifted away like autumn leaves on the wind … 

Like that special toy he loved for so long – you know the one. He slept with it and you made up songs about it and then one day he played with it for the last time, set it on the floor and simply crawled away. No announcement was made:

“Hey Mom and Dad,” he didn’t say, “Watch me tuck Yellow Giraffe under my arm like I’ve been doing every day for the past two years.” He didn’t say, “You may really want to grab your camera,” he didn’t say …

No, you’ll just find that toy covered in dust when you’re straightening up for company. 

“Yellow Giraffe!” you’ll gasp, holding it high like a prize and your now five-year-old will glance at it without batting an eye. She’ll only shrug and look back down into her bowl of cereal that’s presently her new favorite brand, the one she gets all excited about when you pull it from your grocery bag and you both smile and wink and she even does a happy cereal dance and the whole thing is a lot more about speaking her love language and not so much about breakfast. But still – she’s gonna tire of that cereal in a day or a week, put down the spoon and not care so much about it anymore. No announcement will be made:

“Hey Mom and Dad,” she won’t say, “This is my last silly cereal dance.” She won’t say, “You may want to grab your camera,” she won’t say … 

And that’s because our children aren’t wired to sound these alerts: “Yeah, that story book you’ve read every single night for the past six months – I’m simply not going to ask for it tomorrow.” Or “This moment in the pool – pay attention because when I let go of your hand, I’m going to suddenly know how to swim.” 

And so we memorialize other things, obvious things, easy-to-grab things like preschool graduations and proms, but that’s just because these types of occasions are easy to mark, but they’re not going to be the ones we’ll truly miss. Like cuddling on the couch with a small body whose breathing has grown heavy and steady – the weight of him on your chest, the smell of graham crackers wafting off his skin – that’s the one we’ll miss so much it hurts. So we’ve gotta snatch up as many of these gems as we can. And there’s none quite as precious as actually holding one’s child. Think about it – it’s the very first thing you ever did together.

“I’ll still carry you when you’re six,” I say to my Ezra every night when I hoist him up in my arms while I’m making supper, “but soon … your bottom’s gonna have to rest on the counter.”

And he wiggles and giggles and reveals his baby white teeth for the last short breath before they start falling out and his face loses its roundness for good. We sway, we sing our song and I bless each heavy moment of his 40-pound body in my arms. Because he’ll always be my baby, but now – I’m excited to say – he’s also a kindergartner!

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