Today, my babies, you are small. Even you, Ethan, who at five is nearly as tall as I am and who now purchases clothes in the section clearly marked for big kids. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the toddler section across the walkway and remember when you were small enough to fit into shorts with false buttons. I may or may not have cried for fifteen minutes the other night upon the realization that all of your pants now have actual buttons -- real buttons! -- but I digress.

Please grow up, babies. Please get bigger and trade in your onesies for shorts with real buttons. Even if I cry. Even if I make you listen to long, meandering stories about the time it seemed you'd never, ever grow out of size newborn (I'm looking at you, Carmen).

Never stop growing.

Turn into school-aged children who grumble as you throw your backpack into your bedrooms and fling yourself onto your beds with perfected apathy. Turn into preteens who don't need me to rock you to sleep or hold you close or breathe you in at nighttime even if it breaks my heart a little.

Please grow older.

Please grow into teenagers who fall in love and, if I'm making requests, please let me hold you and rock you and breathe you in when your heart breaks for the first time. Please finish school and bask in your independence and the frightening realization that adulthood is tapping at your door. You will do great things, I just know it.

Please turn into little people who decide what clothing you want to wear and a clear preference on which stores you like to shop in. Please trade your bare feet and disheveled hair for pink or purple highlights and flat irons that fry your hair to an unmanageable pile of frizz.

I want these things for you as much as my eyes tear when you reach milestones that make it clear your infancy has slipped away all too quickly.

You see, babies, my life began when you entered this world and switched off my autopilot and held my eyes open to see the world for what it is. You'd be amazed at the pride a mother can feel when her baby gains a few ounces or tries a messy spoonful of pureed green beans for the first time. I can't promise that I won't feel sad at the closure of these phases because it's always hard to say goodbye to a season of life that holds such fondness and beauty. It's always hard to move on from a place where you feel so comfortable and blissfully happy underneath the exhaustion.

But here's the thing about being your mother: deep down inside I know the next season is just as beautiful. I also know the pain of knowing that one of your children will never grow up and the hurt of wondering who she would have become. Imagining doesn't cut it nearly half as much as watching the two of you does.

And so grow up, babies. Grow up big and grow up strong. Make mistakes and get messy and learn, babies. Learn about the world until your head spins at night with the wonder of it's greatness. Fall in love with music. Soak in the lyrics to a song that gives you goosebumps and makes your eyes tear up like mine do when I watch you do something new for the first time -- and then, inevitably, for the last. There is no bitterness in the sweetness of watching you grow and, babies, I can't promise I won't wonder out loud (again and again and again) where the time has gone. But, please, my loves, feel the vastness of your opportunities and reach for the stars. Feel my encouragement and support in all of your endeavors, even the ones I don't understand. I love learning everything you teach me.

And so grow. Grow and thrive and rock the world with your greatness. Know that I will always be behind you -- likely sobbing over a time when you wore jeggings and shorts with elastic waistbands -- soaking up every ounce of your lives with pride.

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