Last week, Lindell finished preschool, which means next year he will begin kindergarten. I’m feeling sentimental about this, because I know, from watching Ford and Owen, that sons go into kindergarten as babies, and they come out as little boys. It is one of the most transformative years of school physically, mentally and emotionally.
I also have learned that mothering involves a near constant state of grieving. As children grow and change, they leave behind their former selves, and everything from their old voice to their baby-fine hair is gone forever.
Lindell — my wild and crazy little Lindell — is on the cusp of growing up.
So I’d like to document a few things. Because another peculiar aspect of motherhood is that we tend to forget all the frustrating, difficult and obnoxious moments in exchange for everything we miss about our babies.
In the fall, when I’m sad about Lindell beginning his journey through elementary school, I will need reminders of how thankful I should be.
For instance, I will forget how many times I had to watch the cartoon “Peppa Pig” after lunch when Lindell wasn’t in school. Granted, “Peppa Pig” is hilarious. The pigs look like something my dog could draw, and when they laugh, they fall on the ground and roll on their big bellies. The youngest, baby-brother pig shoots tears horizontally out of his eyes when he cries. So there are worse things to have to watch.
But usually, Lindell wants to watch the DVR, taped version — in reverse.
He loves the way the baby brother’s tears shoot back into his eyes and how the big daddy pig floats back onto his feet after a good laugh.
Over and over again we watched that cartoon in reverse. And then we watched it some more. And I struggled to stay awake.
I also will forget how hard it was to get anything done with Lindell home half the day. Just as soon as I would start writing a column, he would yell from his bedroom, “I had an accident, Mommy, and I need new pants!” Or I’d try to clean the bathroom (mothers of boys know this is futile) and Lindell would spill his drink in the kitchen.
I’d take Lindell out to do errands, and everything took three times longer than necessary. I couldn’t leave the grocery store without an epic battle over candy at the check-out aisle. At Target, he would whine for a new toy.
In the middle of a store without a public restroom, he’d suddenly need to use the bathroom.
I’d buckle his seat belt and it wouldn’t “feel right.”
I’d tie his shoes and his socks would be “all bumpy” on his toes.
Often I thought, “Man, I could get my whole to-do list done in an hour if I was alone.”
And forget about doing anything for myself. Shopping for clothes meant that Lindell would crawl in and out of the dressing room, dragging bits of clothes with him, or he’d say, loud enough for anyone to hear, “What’s that thing you always wear under your shirt, Mommy?”
At home, when he helped me make bread for dinner, he’d get the dough on his fingers and then the cupboard and all over the living room couch.
These are all the things I will forget as I watch my baby transform into a little boy. You’ll show me this column, and I’ll be disgusted at my former self, the one who wrote it. I’ll think, “Gee, why did I write about all that stuff?”
Then I’ll tell you all that I remember:
The way Lindell’s chubby legs hung out of the shopping cart at Target, and how his perch there brought him eye-to-eye with me.
The way he ran down the aisles at the grocery store and the wind blew back his wispy hair.
How I’d look at him in the rearview mirror and see him mouthing the words to a song on the radio.
The time he looked at me in the mirror of a dressing room and said I was the most beautiful mommy ever.
The way he would run in and out of the clothes racks and hide behind a curtain of women’s dresses. He always thought he was stealth, but I’d hear his giggle and spot his round cheeks peeking out from the clothes.
I’ll tell you that our quiet lunches together at the kitchen table were thought-provoking and nearly meditative.
Our walks to get the older brothers at the end of the school day were always without incident and temper tantrums. Lindell stayed close by, his chubby hand in mine.
He never spilled milk or peed his pants. He kneaded the bread dough perfectly and always remembered to wash his hands after.
Then I’ll tell you that I can still remember the way his head felt in the crook of my arm while we lay on the couch together watching “Peppa Pig.”
I’ll recall the way his rounded belly rose and fell as he become more relaxed, and the way our breathing, together, became deeper and slower as we fell asleep snuggled together, the sound of baby-brother pig crying in the background.
I’ll remember just these things. And I’ll promise you that’s exactly the way it was.
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at www.Facebook.com/Sarah.is.Smiley.