If there’s anything a toddler is good at, it’s sniffing out trouble. My daughter has discovered the joy of climbing on chairs and reaching a whole new world of items to touch, throw and spill. She’s also found a new favorite pastime – throwing herself on the floor in a fit of rage when she’s told she can’t do something. Every single time I see it, I have to try not to laugh and cry at the same time.

toddler climbing

She’s just itching to get bigger and to do things on her own. When my older children are putting on their shoes to go outside and wait for the bus in the morning she thoughtfully brings me one of hers and says, “shoe” in her sweet baby voice.

Sometimes she throws a fit when I tell her she can’t go too and sometimes she simply waves and says, “bye bye.” But I see it, that little spark in her eye. That determination to grow up and leave me.

I know it might seem a bit dramatic, but a part of my heart cries out, “No. Please just stay this little forever. Don’t rush it. Don’t grow up too fast. Don’t walk away. Because these are the last of the firsts for me.”

It’s so bittersweet knowing that she’s my last baby. Some part of me rejoices that I’ll never have to get up several times a night to nurse an infant anymore, and yet there it is – the finality that I’ll never snuggle a newborn again. I try to drink deep the moments I see those chubby toddler legs bounding around the corner with her sweet giggles of delight as I chase behind.

This is where I’m going to be from now on; always chasing behind her, watching her run farther ahead than I’m ready to let her. One day, I’ll have to take her for her first haircut and that will be the last of the first haircuts. Perhaps then those beautiful ringlets will disappear like they did with my first daughter.

This is the the last of the littles- little clothing and little chubby arms reaching out for me. Soon there will be no more kissing chubby baby cheeks and bellies and it’s slipping away so fast. I want to hold onto this moment forever.

I look at my older children and it takes longer to see the babies they were in their faces now. The roundness of my daughter’s cheeks is all but gone, and she’s growing into a beautiful girl who is discovering who she is without me. I know that’s a good thing, but the pang of sadness is there. My son is entering the age of the last of the little cuddles I steal before bedtime. Soon he won’t let me kiss him goodbye in public anymore and I’ll halfheartedly settle for a wave and a smile.

It’s so strange to watch your children growing up before your eyes. You are so happy and excited to see the people they are becoming each day. It goes by in a haze of homework, after-school activities, summer camp, and more meals than I want to recount cooking. It goes by while I’m just itching for bedtime so that I can get work done or watch my shows.

It goes by while I’m singing them to sleep on these last days of our nighttime routine. My son who used to require hours of singing before he would sleep, will one day turn to me and simply say, “It’s ok Mom, you don’t need to sing tonight.” And just as fast, it will be the end of “Night night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite. Have some sweet dreams. See you in the morning. I love you all to pieces.” I rush through it tonight and it’ll be gone tomorrow.

The littles will be over soon. The little arms beckoning me to pick them up. The little wet baby kisses on my cheeks. The little legs running through the house will one day walk out the door and oh how I’ll miss them.

There is nothing I can do to stop them. They’ll keep growing, no matter how I beg time to slow down just for a minute. Each year will blur into the next in waves of school years and work, sprinkled with vacations and trips.

So every day I vow to crank up the radio and dance with little arms around my neck. I’ll watch little legs wiggle to the beat of her own soundtrack. I’ll kiss little baby cheeks until she pushes me away and even then I’ll steal a few more. I’ll appreciate every single little thing about having small children, because every day they grow a little less little.

The song “Slow Down” by Nichole Nordeman perfectly sums up how I’m feeling right now.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.