I heard the question and then the answer. It was offered quite simply and accepted quickly as my son and his friends moved on in their imaginative play. I, however, was frozen for a moment, not with the transaction that had occurred, but with the flash of knowledge that there would be a future of transactions traveling with the gift of a special needs child. I had yet to contemplate questions regarding Amos as he grows up, no longer an impish toddler.
Of course I have considered my fourth child, Amos, and what his needs will be like as he grows from little person to big, but I hadn't considered what others will think. It's almost too much to bare, this considering of my own fears, much less the judgements of others. In this moment, it was just a question from a friend of my eight year old son. It was asked with not a speck of maliciousness, quite innocently, and yet, I heard my son Russell pause before he replied, "he's a baby." Ohhh, I thought to myself. It has begun.
It was not a total untruth. Amos is hardly 3 years old and his older three siblings were likely just getting out of diapers at that age. Yes, I had waited until my other little people turned three and potty training was quick and easy, barring my daughter who engaged in a power struggle with me which she won. Diapers on toddlers are common at our house so why did my insides grimace when I heard my son call his three year old brother, a baby? He does look like a baby; he's quite petite though his tan frame has lengthened and his feet are growing. His hair has turned white in the summer sun and his smile is rapturous. His words are very few and perhaps that makes him seem like a baby or maybe it is the way he walks, toddling with wobbly footing and still falling over nothing in particular.
He's not a baby though. He's not and to say it would be easier if he stayed little would be admitting one of my many hidden truths. No one stays a baby forever though and so, we will clap and cheer as he grows. I asked my son, in a later moment, about his reply and his honest answer caught me off-guard. He wasn't confused after all. No, he had just said the first explanation that popped in his little boy mind. "What should I say?", he asked me in an unusual showing of seriousness. "A really old baby?", he offered.
"I'm not sure," I replied. I'm really not. I don't know what to say or what to tell him to say or what to tell our extended family to say, I just don't know. He's no longer a baby and now falls into the category of preschooler by virtue of age alone. He has turned three and there is no effort to begin the potty training that has always occurred at my house. Funny how something you remember dreading can morph into a wish that I hope one day will come true.
"Just say what's in your heart," I said and, "I'll try to do the same thing."