When my son was just a few weeks old, I wrote him a lullaby. The tune first came to me in the middle of a late-night nursing session, and after a day or two of fussing over the lyrics, his special song was complete.
I sang my son’s lullaby to him every night for the first three years of his life without exception. In fact, I recorded myself singing it so that my husband could play it on the nights when I was away. Over time, my son learned the words and sometimes enjoyed singing it with me. Other times, he was more content to sit back and let me do the serenading.
Our lullaby was an integral part of our nighttime routine, so much so that my son wouldn’t go to bed without it. But then things started changing. One night about four months back, perhaps fueled by a combination of exhaustion and grumpiness, my son insisted that we skip the lullaby and instead go straight to turning out the lights. I was somewhat heartbroken, but complied. (After all, who wants to argue with a tired, cranky toddler?)
That night was sort of the beginning of the end. Over the next few weeks, my son proceeded to say no to our lullaby at random, sometimes requesting a different nighttime song in its place. Then, he started saying no more frequently.
I resisted at first, pushing—OK, sometimes forcing—him to keep up our tradition. Eventually I started letting go, agreeing to skip it on the nights he was extra tired, or really didn’t seem to be in the mood. But one day not so long ago, I suddenly realized we hadn’t done our lullaby in weeks. Just like that, it had gotten phased out of our nighttime routine, and suddenly the whole “my son isn’t a baby anymore” thing hit me so hard I couldn’t help but break down and cry.
I’m not oblivious to the fact that my son is clearly growing up. He’s going to preschool and sounding out letters, and counting backwards and forwards like a champ. He’s playing soccer with the older kids now, having graduated from pee wee status, and whereas he used to rely on me for all things bathroom-related, these days, the words “I have to go potty” are more so an announcement than a request for assistance.
Clearly, my son is no longer a baby. But it wasn’t until we eliminated our lullaby that I realized just how sad that made me.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy that my son is getting more independent. But I worry—what’s he going to want to phase out next? Our goodnight kiss? Our morning hug? The silly games we like to play during long car rides? Some days, I’m overwhelmed by how much he wants my attention; other days, I live in fear that he might one day come to reject it.
The other day, the tune to our lullaby flew into my head out of nowhere, and I started humming it out loud while my son played. He turned to me and said, “Mommy, that was the song we sang when I was a baby.”
“Yes,” I replied, hoping he’d make some mention of how much he missed it.
“But I’m not a baby now,” he continued, “so we don’t need it anymore.”
I tried to explain how that wasn’t necessarily true, but then I took a step back and realized his logic wasn’t so incredibly flawed. He is, in fact, no longer a baby, and rather than mourn the loss of that phase, I’ll be much better off celebrating and embracing our newest one.
It’s a wise approach in theory. Emotionally, it just might take me a while to get there.