There are multiple times through the course of parenthood when you realize that your child is growing up and is no longer that sweet smelling baby you could hold for hours on end. For me, I've had a lot of those moments, but over a two month period I've been shocked at how sentimental I've gotten while watching my boys grow. It could be because my husband and I have been going back and forth on the "another baby" discussion for months and the thought of no more pregnancy, deliveries or even alien poop could be in my near future. Or it could be because I'm in awe of how much my boys know and what they pick up and discover on their own. It's also a possibility that I'm just a crazy mother and wants to be a part of my kids lives for as long as possible because I know it's not that far away that they won't want to be snuggling or climbing on top of me every second.
A few weeks ago, our oldest son had his first real play date. For hours before the play date he was bouncing off walls, couldn't focus and talked my ear off as he told me what he and his friend would do. We discussed being a good friend and what that meant, as well as how we can make him comfortable while his friend was over. As I tried to get Henrik to settle down and eat his breakfast, he just looked older, I swear he was taller than when he woke up that morning. And I could see this big boy excitement that he exuded in every possible way. It was exciting, it was a big day, we were now at the point in his life where he could pick his own friends and invite them over and actually have relationships on his own.
For years, we've been having play dates and have "played with friends" but they are all kids of my friends, not his. And that's not to say he's not friends with them, but they are kids that he's just been around. And now, he's made a friend at school and wanted to hang out with him and "do stuff". It's an odd feeling as a parent, one where you are happy that your child has branched out, introduced himself, was a polite enough kid, a friendly enough kid and outgoing enough to make a friend on his own accord. You're proud of that, obviously, it's what you've been doing for years as you teach them how to be in a social setting, but it's also another step in their life where they are able to step away from you and become their own independent person (another thing you obviously want). It's also a moment where you freak out a little bit and think, what if the mom and I don't get along? What if we don't parent the same way? What if I don't like the kid?
About thirty minutes before his friend was to arrive, Henrik paused and looked at me with a cocked head. "Mom? Will you snuggle me on the couch?" I was surprised. "Your friend will be here very soon, are you sure?" "Yes, I just need a cuddle," he replied. It was heart melting, DUH! Of course I was going to hold him and hang on to every second of that cuddle. It was a reminder that while I was observing and reacting to the loss of the baby era, there was also this moment where he still needed to have me to help him settle down. I asked him if he was ready to play with his friend and Henrik just looked straight ahead, stroked my hand with his fingers and said, "I'm just ready to cuddle now, I don't want to talk". And I sat there, until the doorbell rang, loving my little big boy.
When his friend arrived it was like Christmas, we had to get out every toy and show him every cool thing about our house and yard. And then, just like they do at school, they went off and played wonderfully with one another laughing, creating, building and playing. They were a great fit. I completely understand why Henrik chose this boy as his first friend. It's really comforting to know that your kid has chosen a good human to be around and admire as a peer. I got along wonderfully with the friend's mom and we easily fell into great conversation as we got to know one another. Phew! And Theodor loved every minute and wasn't jealous at all of Henrik for having a friend over. Theo was the typical little brother who wanted to play with them, and because they are good kids, they let him.
When it was time for his friend to go, Henrik and his new friend gave chest bumps, high fives and hugs to one another. And as we shut the door, I saw this proud look on Henrik's face for his accomplishment of being a good friend and sharer. I think he was also proud of himself for actually being old enough to have a friend from school over. As we sat down and got ready for nap time, I asked Henrik if he'd had a great time. He smiled at me and said that he'd love for him to come over every day. I laughed and told him that we'd make more play dates with his friend. It wasn't long after that conversation that Henrik drifted away to sleep for his nap, and fell back into that baby phase that is so hard to let go of.
For now, I don't have to let go, but we're teetering and dabbling in this "Big Boy" world where Henrik desperately wants to be, but also is held back by his need for his nap, frequent three year old tantrums, his love of warm milk and his desire to snuggle. It's an interesting journey, one, I'm sure that will span several years, but it's so nice to see this glimpse of who he will become as he enters boyhood, his teenage years and eventually as he becomes a man. And while it's easy to be astonished and proud of your child for being so wonderful, it's also important to take a little pride, or at least give a little smile as you watch your child discover the world in front of them.