Terza, my baby, just turned 18 months. Not only does she walk and talk, she runs and climbs and sings and dances. She follows detailed instructions and she cleans up better than my 8 year-old. She will always be a baby, but I am forced to concede that she is officially a toddler.
So far, she's had exactly one babysitter, the Great Grand-Nanny whose fame is known the world over (Ok, just the Tri-State area, Fine, only within a five block radius). Nonny has provided impeccable child care, which is really every respect has been beyond reproach. Icing on the cake was that the child care was free. You couldn't top it. I'm the luckiest mom in the universe.
But now that Terza is a bona-fide toddler, it is asking a wee much of my octogenarian Nonny, no matter how game she is for the job, to watch her. The kid destroys living rooms in under 30 seconds. She will empty your bookshelves and shatter your crystal collection before you've crossed the room to reach her. She scales furniture. She can reach the freaking doorknob, for crying out loud. She's a handful. So, reluctantly, I signed the kid up for a few partial days at day care. I knew she'd love it because she's the most sociable one of our lot and has a special love for babies, by which of course I mean, children her age who aren't babies at all anymore.
For a bunch of hours every week, I'll have no children in my charge. I mean, of course they're always in my charge, but at least, not under my direct supervision. I know I am supposed to feel liberated and excited and relieved, but honestly, I just feel forlorn. I don't want to work, and I don't want to play. I just want to go get my baby. Were I to do that, I'd instantly begin wishing I had child care, and try to find someone to watch her for an hour so I could get some work done, but knowing that does not make me feel any less sad.
I find that each milestone is extra bittersweet with Terza because I know she's my last and I just want to savor every little drop of babyness while I can, no matter how aggravating and exhausting and even unbearable it may be in the moment. It's another damned if you do, damned if you don't moment of parenting. I shudder to think what will happen when I drop her off at college, the last of our brood to leave the nest.
Of course, considering the trend of grown children living with their parents into their 30s, I should probably just cross that bridge when we come to it.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.