I’m a Midwest girl born and raised in a small town in Central Illinois. Because of this, I LIVE for the fall. Fall is by far my favorite season, with trips to apple orchards, pumpkin patches and hikes to admire the changing leaves. I love watching everything change…but little did I know this fall I would have to deal with a change that hit a little closer to home.
This past weekend, Todd, the kids, and I met up with my family for a hike at Starved Rock. The weather was perfect and I was looking forward to a fun day with my family.
We started our hike. During the first mile, I looked around me. L, my youngest son, was in our borrowed Baby Bjorn strapped to my husband and bouncing along with him on the hike. J, my daughter, fashionable with her fall accessories, was complaining this was not “her thing” and begging her Uncle for a piggy-back ride through the trees. And then there was H, my middle child and first son. H was in his glory on this hike. He kept stopping to pick up rocks, sticks, and acorns. He truly appeared to be in his element.
As we walked I couldn’t take my eyes off of H. Just as the new fall leaves around me…H was making a change.
H is a notorious “Mama’s Boy” and as a baby would never leave my side. Usually shy and reserved he would always hold onto my pant leg whenever in a crowd or doing something new. He was always willing to try new things…so long as Mommy was near by.
But as we walked deeper into the woods, H wasn’t attached to my pant leg. In fact, he was far ahead of me, enjoying his surroundings without an ounce of fear. He didn’t need me to help him…in fact he was leading our hiking crew, checking out maps, choosing walking sticks, and calling back to us all to keep up.
I couldn’t help but wonder: “When did THIS happen?”. I’m known for taking pictures and keeping memories of basically every moment of my children’s lives…how did I not see this coming?
Mile 2. H lagged back to walk next to me for awhile. He showed me all the treasures he had discovered. Suddenly, he tripped over a stick and fell to the ground. Of course instantly I reached down ready to wisp him up and dry his tears. But a strange thing happened. No tears…not a drop. He merely got up, brushed off his hands and pants, and returned to his position as head of the pack.
I had a twinge of sadness come over me… I was in the moment every Mommy faces when they realize their baby won’t be a baby much longer. But my sadness was short-lived as I realized one thing wasn’t changing as we rounded the trails…H was still very much a “Mama’s Boy”.
As we were walking the trails there were moments when H would get close to edge and I would of course panic. So I needed to hold his hand to calm my fears of him tumbling down the side of the steep cliffs. If I asked him to hold my hand, he instantly said “No”…because of course big boys don’t need their Mommy’s help.
So I made a sad face, sort of doing a fake cry, and said to him: “I need you to help Mommy…I’m scared of these steps, can you hold my hand?”. Instantly, without hesitation he reached his hand out to me. He then remained vigilant by my side, helping me down the stairs, and around the tight curves. I knew then that no matter how big he grows…he’s always going to be by my side.
After I was out of “danger”, my little man returned to his leadership position of the pack, laughing and hunting for sticks and rocks with his cousins. But I noticed every now and then he would look back to see what I was doing.
Toward the end of the hike, I asked H if I could carry him. He had walked about 2 1/2 miles unassisted and I was internally struggling with all these growing up images. I was relieved when he reached his arms up to me. I carried him the last half mile…and held him tighter than usual. Feeling his arms around my neck was priceless. It reminded me that this change he was undergoing would not happen overnight. Thankfully, I’ll get many more years of holding his hand and helping him finish his hikes.
We finished the hike and could see the sunshine through the trees. H wouldn’t let me carry him “over the finish line”, but rather wanted down. I mean God forbid one see a big boy’s Mommy carrying him at the end of the hike! I put H down, he looked at me with his beautiful bright blue eyes, smiled, and then ran off after his cousins.
I sighed and shrugged my shoulders… who knew it only took 3 miles for a baby to turn into a little boy?!