While the change from baby to kid to, "OMG you're an actual person" is usually gradual and subtle, there are some particular moments in a parent's life when they realize their baby is no longer a baby. What does it feel like? Somewhere between rainbows coming out of your ears and Rocky punching you in the stomach. (Maybe Rocky punching you in the stomach caused the rainbows to come out of your ears? I'm not sure.) It's brutal and beautiful and bittersweet and, unlike so many other things you will encounter as a parent, unmistakable. Oh, and also? It's sort of like Groundhog Day in that it will happen over and over and over again, somehow.
Between two children, I've probably had a dozen or so of these moments. Sometimes it's just a look or a gesture or the way they move on the playground that pokes at the emotional center of my brain. It's like some inner voice is reminding me, "Hey, remember when they needed help burping? Not so much anymore, huh?" Other times they'll demonstrate insight or intelligence that I wasn't expecting, like today, when my toddler was going on about penguins. "Penguins eat fish," she informed me. "Baby penguins are so cute. They stay with they daddy. Penguins don't walk: they waddle."
One thing these moments all have in common for me is that they all demonstrate a life or understanding of the world that has nothing to do with me. Realizing they are their own person is one of the most amazing things in the world, and sort of melancholy because, goddamnit kid, don't you even care that I used to do literally everything for you?
I asked other moms to share the moment they realize their little ones weren't so little anymore. Get your tissues, friends.