I've got a confession to make: I didn't know I had a toddler.
Don't get me wrong - I am well aware that my shadow is, in fact, my smallest child. What I didn't realise was that somewhere in the last couple of months, that shadow morphed from a baby into a toddler.
I kind of knew it was coming. As her first birthday approached, I was a wreck. Every time someone mentioned her upcoming milestone, tears welled involuntarily. My baby, turning one - say it isn't so. (The force of denial is strong in this one.)
But the months since her birthday have seen her sliding head-first towards toddler-dom (Toddler-hood? Toddler-ville? What's the right name for this?). Meanwhile, I've been looking the other way.
But it's time to face the facts. Here are the ways in which I know my baby is, in fact, no longer a baby:
1. She's not a newborn
Don't worry; I did work this bit out on my own. But when a friend came over with her fresh newborn the other day, I looked at her tiny little curled-up bundle, and then looked across at my walking 'baby', and my mind went, huh, my baby's not so little anymore. Who knew? Sometimes seeing those comparisons really does bring things into focus.
2. She no longer wears baby clothes
My baby doesn't wear onesies during the day anymore (or if she does, it's simply because my morning's been too hectic and I haven't had a chance to change her out of her PJs yet. Not that this has ever happened to me, it's just something that happened to a friend *coughs*). She wears little outfits that look like proper little people clothes.
Talking about clothing, my baby now has shoes. Proper shoes she uses to protect her feet because …
3. She walks
Yes, my baby walks. Real (as in, very young) babies don't walk.
Sure, some babies walk when they're relatively young, but once those teeny-tiny tootsies are used for purposes other than being things your baby tries to eat or that you decorate with adorable little booties or socks, you're on a one-way train from Baby-dom to Toddler-ville. And that train, much like your new toddler, can suddenly move very fast.
4. No one else calls her a baby anymore
I've started to notice people don't say, "How old is your baby?" anymore. Rather, they ask, "How old is she?" The word 'baby' has suddenly disappeared from other people's vocabulary in reference to my little girl.
I feel its absence acutely, so I try extra hard to retrieve it. "My baby's 15 months," I say proudly, if nonsensically, in response.
5. People have started asking me if I want more babies
This part of being a mother has always baffled me. As soon as you have a baby there's a lull period where people appreciate that your mind is way more focused on your current offspring than on producing any more. But once your little one reaches a certain age, people start asking questions about whether you want more children.
I find these questions only really start once people stop thinking about your baby as a 'baby'.
The truth is, I can no longer deny that my 15-month-old walking, babbling, somewhat-independent little miss is no longer a bona fide 'baby'.
But regardless of how big she (or her older siblings) get, I will always love them with the same primal intensity I did in that moment when they first lay on my chest as newborns.
And while other people may call them toddlers or kids or one day even teenagers (gulp), I have a feeling that, in my heart, they'll always be my babies.
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