I guess I really didn’t get what the big deal was about being the baby of the family until we had to send our own Baby of the Family off. Ever since I can remember and even after I grew taller than Mom, she always referred to me as “Her Baby” or “Our Baby” or “The Baby of the Family.” Mom liked saying all those phrases with a laugh after I grew to be taller than her.
When I was very small I thought, “I am not a baby. I wish she would stop calling me that.” In my mind, I balled up my fists and stomped. In real life, I just took it and smiled because I sort of got a lot of attention from those phrases. I guess it bothered me enough though that I decided I wouldn’t call my youngest child “The Baby of the Family” or “Our Baby” or “My Baby,” until now because My Baby started his first day of college the other day.
A few days before we left to drop Matt off, Laura said, “Mom, why are you so worried? Matt is probably the most independent one in the family. He’s even more independent that you are.” It was true. I guess I was just worried about how I was going to handle moving the youngest one out of the nest, and I knew it would be a tough day for me. One would think that I would be used to sending kids off to college by now, but I’m not. That feeling of missing them when they’re gone doesn’t go away.
Since Mike and I helped Matt move in on a Saturday, and because it’s such a long drive home, Mike announced that we should really get a move on early Sunday morning. I agreed and realized then that my hug with Matt the Saturday night before was my good-bye hug. As we drove away from town and kept getting farther away from My Baby, I couldn’t help but sniffle. Memories of favorite days spent with Matt when he was just a little kid started to pop into my mind.
Matt and I used to like to hang out by the bridge by our house. Back then, I decided I would sit and watch as long as Matt wanted me to no matter how long it took, and I always was ready to sit on the bridge even if we had just done that same thing the day before. The trees towered high over the water, and it was like we had our own little fort just for us. Matt searched for handfuls of rocks on the side of the creek, and he threw rock after rock into the water just to see how far away it would land and what kind of splash it would make. We would comment on which were the “good ones” by how big the splash was. I knew that the next year when Matt would be in kindergarten that he probably wouldn’t want to throw rocks in the creek with his Mom just to see what kind of splash they make, and I was right.
Plus Our Baby was the last one of our kids that Dad and I got to share and teach childhood things to. You know, some things like how to:
• tie shoes;
• ride a bike;
• put on and tie skates;
• roller skate and ice skate;
• float and swim;
• hold hands while crossing the street or just because it felt nice and secure;
• remain calm during thunderstorms by giving hugs;
• listen to bedtime stories; and
• say bedtime prayers.
After we got home, I wrote out a grocery list for the coming week. I tried to stop those sniffles from coming back as I realized I wouldn’t have to buy Gatorade, frozen pizzas and Oreos for a little while. I wandered up to see the state of Matt’s bedroom with vacuum cleaner in hand. His room looked pretty bare and as if he took almost all of his possessions with him. I briefly noticed a white, plastic Target bag on his bookshelf and thought it must be some sort of trash, but when I got a text from Matt later that day, he said that there was a bag on his bookshelf, and that it was a present for me and Dad.
I retrieved the bag, searched for Dad, and we opened it together. A card was on top, and the first sentence started by saying, “Thanks for all your love and support.” More tears had to be wiped away as I realized Babies of the Family do grow up. My Mom’s endearing phrase stuck with me that day, and I finally figured out that it’s not so bad being called the Baby of the Family after all.