When is your baby no longer a baby? I recently asked this question to my husband. His answer mirrored my own suspicions: "I'm not exactly sure, but I think Kerrington is approaching it."
Will she stop qualifying as a baby when I no longer can hoist her easily onto my hip? When another tooth emerges from her swollen gums? When her hands, still plump and dimpled near the knuckles, thin out? When her wispy hair thickens?
It's difficult to know.
Right now, when a new adult appears, Kerrington toddles to me, clutches my legs, and buries her face in my knees. Like a young buck rubbing antlers against a tree to mark his territory, Kerrington rubs her face side to side into my legs, designating me as her own.
I've noticed how often I do the same to her. When she sits in my lap, I often nestle my face into the top of her head or the crook of her neck and breathe in her smell -- sweetly sweaty, reminiscent of Cheerios and strawberries. Lost in thought, I turn my face side to side, nuzzling her, marking her as mine. She never resists.
She has no words to ask me to stop. She hasn't learned to extend "mom" into multiple syllables and reveal annoyance at my unbridled affection. Rather, she permits me to revel in her, just like I let her cling to me, never wanting to rush this time when she'd have nowhere else she'd rather be than right with me.
After all, she is my baby.