Searching for the Baby in the Boy

Nowhere in this photo do I see a baby. I look and study and blow it up to its maximum size but a baby isn't anywhere to be found. It's as if one night while I was sleeping someone exchanged my little bedbug for a child. A child who holds his preschool girlfriend's hand under the snack table and gives her all his favorite toys. A boy who insists on sitting and listening to every song in its entirety, even if it means sitting in the car with the engine running -- waiting for the song to end. A little person who builds towers out of Legos and paper towel dispensers and proudly shows them off. A kid whose ear can distinguish a violin from a cello, a saxophone from a clarinet -- slow on words, perhaps but quick on sounds and far more knowledgeable than I.

"Archer, listen! It's a trumpet!"

"No, not a trumpet, Mommy. Dis sound a French horn."

And he's usually right.

"Oh, sorry, Archer. I'm an idiot."

Babies don't tell their mothers they're wrong. Babies don't tell you they love you and make up "mommy songs" that they belt out on walks with the dogs. Babies don't pick dandelions from the weeds and say, "here, mommy, blow..." Babies don't stand on stools to wash their hands or practice pushing their baby sisters in strollers around the house.

"Cuz, Mommy? Der's a baby in there, in your belly and I give her a kiss like this... Mu-ah!"

Sunday, at a family reunion, I watched as my cousins swept Archer up into their arms, his eyes wide and grateful to be included in such childhood shenanigans. Only once did Archer find his way back into my arms, too thrilled with being wheeled around the museum in my Nana's wheelchair and eating crackers with the big kids amidst the Bamboo in the courtyard.

And the next morning, on his way to school, without being prompted, Archer asked if he could see his cousins, again. And babies don't do that either.

"You love your cousins don't you." I said.

"Yeah," Archer smiled, whipping his hair out of his face like a teenager.

"Tomorrow," I promised. "We get to see them tomorrow."

"Das cool," Archer said with a nod and I laughed because it always sounds funny to hear him say "cool" or "awesome" or "later skater" because those are things that I say. And every time I laugh Archer laughs, too. "Thas funny, right?" he says, even if he has no idea what has prompted my giggles.

I decided to take Archer out of school for the month of August, so we can have adventures just the two of us: our last hoorah as partners in pigeon-chasing, sidewalk-kicking crime before the baby comes. The baby. And I can't believe I'm going to do this all over again: have a baby, watch her grow, become a little girl; A child; Her own person with hands to hold and instruments to recognize and towers to build all her own.

I can't believe that three years from now, I will look upon the photos of a face not yet before me with the same pain, longing, and where-did-the-time-go tears that I have right now, looking at these seemingly grown-up pictures of Archer: My beautiful son, child, little boy, whose hazel eyes once followed my every move. And now? Every day it is made more clear that I am no longer the center of his world. Instead he has created his own: a magical place where violin-playing dragons blow dandelions and mommies aren't (always) allowed. It is in this world where Archer will, over time, construct his wings.

I cannot believe that once upon a time, I held in my body, something so small. A magic bean I knew would grow, but not this fast. Into a child I knew I would love, but nowhere near this much.

He might as well be a thousand feet high, the way I look at him now. The way I know I will always look at him -- winding like a beanstalk up and into the clouds. Growing up and farther away, my love expanding like the universe around him as his eyes fill with stars.



Mabel | 1:38 AM

this is beautiful :) thanks for sharing!

Trooper Thorn | 1:42 AM

It gets stranger as the child grows older. You see all their ages in their faces : infant, toddler, 3, 4, 5, 11, 14, 18.

Sometimes only discrete fleeting glimpses, sometimes all ages at once.

In the younger siblings you see the same age progression, but you also see the older one repeated at the same age.

It gets really freaky when the sibs are different genders.

Then you realize you made them and they are you and Mom.

Then you look at your hand as you type and swear those are your father's hands.

Life is weird.

Anonymous | 3:59 AM

So beautiful. I am beginning to feel this way about my nearly 2 1/2 year old son--especially now that we have a nearly 9 month old girl who reminds me daily how far my little son has come.

I did not carry my children in my womb, but in my heart for so long that the days go too fast and the time ticks loudly reminding me of how quickly they grow, change and become independent.

I am just starting to get the "mommy you go" when my little boy is playing and wants to play alone--alone, I thinke "really?" How fast they grow.

Renee | 5:24 AM

That is beautiful. You want your children to grow up and become the person they were meant to be. But sometimes it happens before you are ready and you want them just to stay a baby.

Maria Melee | 6:30 AM

Oh, this made me cry. My little man is transitioning far too quickly from baby to boy as well. For every moment of wonder there's a little party of me that skips ahead to the scary future where he isn't going to want mama-kisses all the time anymore.

Augh, boys! And I'm making another one!

I think it's so sweet that Archer is psyched about his little sister. He seems like a beautiful, imaginative little dude.

Later skater!

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx | 6:45 AM

Wonderful post, thank you! My daughter just turned 2 and I'm already getting that feeling... sometimes I pick her up after work and I wonder - how did she grow so much between the time that I dropped her off this morning and now? She seems so much bigger every day.

kittenpie | 6:53 AM

It's true, I can't see any baby in my girl any more, and really not even any toddler, either. At four, she is growing long of limb, impossibly girl-like, and the kid is becomign all kid. She runs, hair swinging, pumping legs poking out from beneath her shorts, and I see her years stretching ahead, her proportions done changing for some time. Still, when I fold her laundry, it looks so small. She is caught between the little and the big for a little time longer, but I know how short, and it makes me wistful, too. I know, GGC, I know.

Don Mills Diva | 6:54 AM

Vintage GGC.

Beautiful post Rebecca - this is why we keep coming here.

Anonymous | 7:07 AM

Ugh, God. The baby growing into a kid. Makes me so wistful too. I got tears in my eyes when I read: watch her grow, become a little girl. My little girl is 4 1/2 and 44 pounds and constantly telling me how to pronounce words in Spanish.

RedPlanet | 7:40 AM

Tremendous post. Thanks.

Anonymous | 7:57 AM

Oh my goodness, this was incredible. I'm pregnant and I plan to read this over and over as the time passes.

The Mommy | 8:15 AM

Thanks for making me cry at work. :)
My boy is 5 and about to go to kindergarten and I have been feeling these feeling so much. Where or where did the time go? And my baby girl is 14.5-months-old and singing and dancing and marching around the house and she too is growing too quickly. So very, very quickly. As my husband keeps saying, the disappearance of the baby is how people end up having "just one more."

Enjoy your August with Archer and remember that even when he's 5 and 10 and 25 he will still need his mom and he will always hold the ghost of the baby he was within.

foodiemama | 8:29 AM

its just how i am feeling as another birthday approaches. always bitter sweet but that big boy face is always to die for!

Dianna | 10:13 AM

That was amazing. It's insane how quickly they grow. I was looking at pictures from my niece last summer and saw her last night and it's incredible how different she is.

Anonymous | 10:16 AM

Reading this entry made me cry. Usually I'll read your posts to my husband because we're at the same point in life (I also am pregnant with a girl and have a 2 1/2 year old son at home starting nursery school in Sept.). I had to have him read it to himself because I couldn't get through it without balling. My husband and I are just trying to take advantage of our time as a threesome that's left before the baby gets here and we're having a hard time watching our son get so much bigger and more wise every day. I even have fleeting thoughts of not starting nursery shcool in Sept and keeping him home with me for one more year although I know it will be so beneficial for him as he is slower to develop his speech and loves all children his age. Thanks for this post, it helps me to know there are other mommies out there that feel exactly like I do.

Anonymous | 10:20 AM

You write the most beautiful posts about your son. I can truly feel the deep love you have for him in your writing.

My nearly two year old son is growing up so fast too and I just want to somehow hit the pause button for a bit and enjoy him a little more at this age.

How wonderful that you're going to spend an entire month with him before your little girl arrives. I'd love to be able to do something like that. We have a little one on the way too (not until March), and I dread that our son won't feel as special when the baby arrives.

Keep up your fantastic writing, you have a true gift. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous | 10:35 AM

lovely post but there is a little bit of baby in that first photo. Look at the baby fat folded into his wrist and onto the table. And is that a dimple on his knuckle?

Anonymous | 10:42 AM

I had a shock the other night. My wife and sons are out of town for the first time in several months, and when I got Porter on the phone, I found myself speaking with an actual young child who was leading the conversation himself. Where did my toddler go?

Zellmer | 11:03 AM

I can totally relate to this. I look at my 2-year-old daughter and I can't remember her being a baby, which makes me sad.

You write beautifully, BTW.

Jennifer | 11:11 AM

You had to do this one now, didn't you?! I spent yesterday knee-deep in photo albums from pregnancy to now, cleaning out clothes to consign and just aching to smell that baby smell.

My little man will be 3 in November and it's just gone too fast. Thank you for writing exactly what I was feeling but so much more lovely than I could've.

Rachael | 3:19 PM

I'm totally crying right now too. Mine is 2. I can't find his baby fat. He has opinions. He eats by himself. He communicates, and he's learning to talk on the phone. What happened?

WTG for taking Archer out of school for August - you will never regret that, you're going to have such a great time.

Mirinda Dawe | 4:03 PM

Awwww, thanks for the post dinner boo-hoo I just had! That was precious and describes it perfectly. My youngest of three kiddos is now 3.5 years and it's so bittersweet. I just told my DH today that I cannot believe we're done(he's snipped) and they are all growing so fast. Enjoy August with your beautiful little man!

Micah & Brooke | 4:22 PM

Aww, becca, i totally have the chills reading this right now.

Anonymous | 6:19 PM

Ugh, that just made me teary eyed. I have a 13 year old boy/man and an 13 month old and DAMN if I am not mourning both as they age. It is both beautiful, yet painful to watch them grow. They become closer to you in so many ways yet at the same time move so far away from you - if that makes any sense. SIGH. I have to go squeeze my chubby baby boy now and hug my tweenager.

CaraBee | 6:21 PM

That was really beautiful! My sweet girl is only 9 months, but I have to remind myself to not skip by these days, because the time will be here oh so soon when I miss my little baby.

pamela | 6:21 PM

so bittersweet and beautiful. you really know how to put feelings into words...

Kirsten | 7:41 PM

That was some seriously beautiful writing. Archer is so lucky to have this record of your feelings about him and motherhood. And so is your yet to be daughter.

Stacy | 3:43 AM

Oy, that made me cry.

My boy will be 17 months on the 1st, and just yesterday I was watching him play in the backyard. From where I was standing, I could see him but he couldn't see me. All of a sudden I saw him lift his head and look around for me. "Mama?" I thought for sure he'd cry when he couldn't see me, so I took a step toward him. I stopped dead in my tracks when he literally shrugged, and went back to playing in the sandbox.

What the...? He shrugged?! Like, Oh well, I was having fun without her anyway." It kind of made me laugh, and it kind of broke my heart.'s fun to watch him grow up, and yet there are days I'd still stuff him back in the womb if I could.

You write beautifully - I received your book in the mail yesterday and look forward to starting it tonight.

Anonymous | 6:47 AM

foo's birthday is in a couple of weeks. you said it all -- right there, as usual. i don't necessarily miss the baby, but every morning when we wake up i am shocked that babies become very big girls with big imaginations and bright ideas of their own. so fast. so fast.

amazing ladies beget beautiful boys in the hood. he will be as good of a brother as he is a boy.

so much love

Anonymous | 7:17 AM

I am currently trying to convince the 7 year old not to grow. She is growing too fast for me! You put these feeling into words better than I ever could. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous | 10:06 AM

Goodness he's gorgeous! His eyes remind me so much of my little guy. I have been walking this tightrope too, seeing the two's become almost three and any traces of baby disappear. I can only imagine how much more eye-opening it would be to actually HAVE a baby on the way to contrast the grown-upedness. I think it's so cool you guys are taking August to celebrate together. Enjoy it!

Anonymous | 10:06 AM

Thanks for making me appreciate every nap and bedtime in the rocking chair as a privledge and not a chore! Between this and the special last night about "The Last Lecture" author Randy Pausch, I catch myself tearing up just putting my 16 month old down for his nap! I loved that line from your other post a while back, and I often say it to myself, "Misty watercolor memories, dude. Misty watercolor memories." Thanks for being such an incredible Mom Mentor and Writer!

Windy | 1:17 PM

What a wonderful piece and it is soo amazing to see who they become. It's hard to imagine what they will be like but then when you find out who they really are you cannot imagine them any different. I don't know how empty my life would have been without my little one. Thank YouQ

Anonymous | 5:44 PM

It's beautiful, all of it. But my favorite part, and one of the parts that rang most true for me, is the part where you conceded your idiocy to your son. Mine is oh so much smarter than I can ever aspire to be.

Beautiful post. Archer will read it one day and know he is loved. Every part of him.

Anonymous | 7:30 PM

That was beautiful. I'm always lurking (yeah that sounds creepy, I know), but had to chime in on this post having a 3 year old boy myself and just a little ahead of you in my second pregnancy. I know just how you feel. I've been following all your posts since I read on another blog that you were preggo too. Congrats and best of luck!!

Anonymous | 11:04 PM

You capture this parenting thing so well.

Her Bad Mother | 12:07 PM

*choking back empathetic tears*

When the baby comes? It will be even more intense. Because you will see in the new baby the one who grew into boy. You will look into new baby's eyes and be filled with such love for that baby, and such *longing* for the baby that once was, and such intense adoration for the boy that is that your heart will explode in your chest like a star.

Just so you know.


Anonymous | 2:05 PM

That was a beautiful tribute.

I feel that way every time I look at my children.

Except now I look at them and feel not only the love, but a blinding sense of panic, as they hurl themselves toward adulthood.

I'm not ready for my babies to spread their wings just yet.

But everyday, their wings grow just a bit stronger, waiting for the wind to lift them...

Jenn/hippygoth | 8:03 AM

beautiful. i love seeing what comes next - because looking at my 10 month old's newborn pictures, i can sometimes see what she looks like now, but looking at her now, i can't imagine what she'll look like later. and be like - i can't imagine what she'll be! but it's exciting and magical and hopeful.

thanks for sharing your big kid.

Dolled Up | 6:09 PM

I'm pregnant with my second ( a girl) you just made me cry (thanks) because my little boy is still a baby but I know he won't be forever.

Beautiful writing.