It's officially official. Jackson is no longer a baby. An expert at making his independence and resourcefulness known, Jackson has defeated one childproof safeguard after another. He'd make an excellent addition to a security team, showing them where every weakness in their system is, and that's just what he's done for our new house.
Breaking in, climbing out, extricating kitchen utensils, absconding with keys, and locking himself in rooms are among the clever little man's favorite pastimes these days. To be honest, aside from the natural concerns for his safety, I feel nothing but glee from seeing his little mind at work. This resourcefulness and determined nature will serve him well, and I never tire of watching his gears turn until his problem is solved. There is- or I should say was- one thing I held my proverbial breath and hoped wouldn't happen too soon.
I should have known the day before. I sat on the couch catching up with a dear friend, and we both watched as Jackson tried to open the back door to go outside and play with his sister. About a foot above his head, the bar lock that swings down like an arm and locks into place to prevent the door from opening held its ground, refusing him entry into the great beyond called 'the backyard'. I was momentarily surprised when he quickly gave up on his escape and toddled away. My surprise faded immediately when he returned a moment later with the broom, and willfully used the handle to extend his reach and deftly push the bar lock up and out of the way. I should have known then, that no crib could hold him.
The next morning I really, really needed to have the morning pee (sorry, thems the facts) before I got him out of bed. I heard him rouse and chatter as I walked past his room, but asked Emily not to get him out of bed until I could use the bathroom, and stepped in and closed the door. No sooner had I begun than I heard Em say "Did mommy get you out of bed?" and the sound of TWO sets of feet pattered down the hallway. Incredulous, I emerged from the bathroom to see Jackson standing proudly in the hallway next to his big sister. Somehow, stealthily, soundlessly- without a thud or a thump or a snag- he had scaled the vertical bars of his crib and descended to the ground like some hybrid ballerina-ninja-spider monkey. I was impressed, but suddenly worried. His act at the back door filled my head with visions of his silent escape to the yard during the wee hours of the night, while I slept unknowingly through his Andy Dufresne antics. If he wouldn't stay in his crib, and he could unlock the doors, HOW CAN I KEEP HIM SAFE??
We converted his crib to a toddler bed the same day, a blissfully seamless transition, and ultimately turned the lock on his bedroom door around. Yes, it now locks from the outside, and I hate it. But he is always asleep when I put him down, I watch him on the video monitor, and I unlock the door as soon as I wake in the morning, so he never feels scared or trapped in his room. Feeling slightly better about his security, I began to lament the end of the baby era in earnest. Before long I'll be begging for cuddles that he's too busy exploring and learning to give. It was a huge symbolic moment, another neon sign of an indicator that we are at a great turning point in our lives, yet again.
That day Jackson napped late into the afternoon, and therefore wasn't completely ready to be asleep when I laid him down for bedtime. I had no idea how he would handle the 'big kid bed' alone, so I knelt down beside the bed while he adjusted to the lack of a 4th wall between himself and the freedom outside the bed. He kept rolling over, shifting, acting like he was trying to get up. I laid him back down each time, until one swift move from him was too fast for my grip. He flipped over onto his belly, wrapped his soft little arms around my neck, and laid his head on my shoulder. Still laying on his belly in the bed, but holding on to me so sweetly, he patted my back, played with my hair, and cuddled like never before. When I finally laid him back in his bed, I lay my head next to his, and he scooted over until our foreheads kissed, and smiled drowsily at me. he reached out his hand to touch my face, moved for a kiss, and closed his eyes as he drifted easily to sleep. I milked those few moments for everything they were worth. Somehow he knew I needed a little extra love that day. Or maybe he needed some, too. Sometimes the small, almost imperceptible moments when we begin to assert our independence- in ways to grow apart from each other- it is most necessary to remind each other that we are still there. As Mother, I am the touchstone for my children. And I realize a little more every day that My role in their lives will diminish, bit by bit, until they are grown themselves, and out in the world completely without me. I hope that even then, if they sense that lack of the fourth wall holding them in, that they can always return to me to feel safe, if only for a moment, before returning to their infinite explorations of the world.