“When Mommy’s old and shrively, will you carry me, too?” I ask my four-year-old son, hoisting him onto my side while walking into Whole Foods Market.
“Oh, don’t ask me that anymore!” he snaps back, annoyed, before instructing firmly, “When you are OLD and shrively, I will, but not while I’m a kid.” I chuckle to myself at the response. I remember the first time his solid frame led me to ask that question. His face took a contemplative look before he eagerly offered “Yes!” with a jubilant smile. I think he, too, envisioned the “big and strong man” he hopes to become.
He and I are running errands together having left his two sisters home with Dad. It’s a rare excursion out for just the two of us. When he requested that I carry him I was tempted to lecture about how he’s a big boy and can walk. Maneuvering a clunky metal shopping cart one-handed is just never appealing. I look at him from the corner of my eye, “Are you tired?”
“No,” he rubs his cheek against mine, “I just want you to carry me.” He leans his head in the crook of my neck before opting to keep his cheek pressed against mine as we continue on our way.
Together we meander our way down the aisles discussing what vegetables he hates, what apples to buy his sisters and what’s still on the list, all the while our heads leaning together, cheek-to-cheek. While we wait our turn in the meat department, I remind myself to take a moment to take in this moment. I feel William’s warm breath as he asks about the various meats, a butter-soft cheek pressed close and little arms resting on my shoulders. Tomorrow he may opt to never be carried, but for now I have my little boy.
On the ride home he calls over the Jack Johnson music, “Mommy, I’m going to die the same time as you.” I repeat what I heard for clarification and he simply offers, “Yes.” I look back in the rear-view mirror and catch a glimpse of his content, smiling face looking out the window.
Tonight while turning out the light I assure that I’ll come back and snuggle once he’s asleep. “Do other boys have their Mommies come back and snuggle?” The question catches me off guard. Already feeling the pressure of peers? Just yesterday it seemed that he asked me to stay and snuggle. Wait, it was yesterday, so,“Yes,” I readily and assuredly reply.
“And ugh, I don’t need these things here anymore. Just give them to Grace!” he offers while flinging two stuffed animals off of his bed. I find myself actually feeling a pang of sadness for these once loved stuffed creatures; coveted Henry the Bear and Telly the Cat whose roles have suddenly shifted from loved ones to just things, but I take my cue and assure William that his little sister, Grace, will take good care of Henry and Telly.
For all that I love to watch my children stretch and grow I hold tight to these moments of a soft cheek pressed close and little hands reaching out. Life in this stage is a rhythm of holding tight to memories and continually letting go so my children can stretch and grow. And somewhere in this rhythm I will continue to find my groove by taking my cue from them.