Turning one is a pretty big deal for a guy. There’s all this new stuff you can eat — eggs, dairy, peanut butter (hel-lo! YUM) — and you can finally see what everyone else in the car is looking at when your mom turns you around. Aside from the shots, there are a lot of perks, especially if someone’s still carting you around like a sheikh.

My youngest is basking in the glory. Last week was a really big week. He:

  • ended nursing (okay, not so great for him … but I am personally relishing my newfound independence)
  • got rid of the pacifier (oops, another bad one)
  • got two front teeth (not fun to get, but cool to have)
  • gulped down his first tastes of whole milk
  • learned to wave (pretty cute)
  • learned to clap (even cuter, especially when it’s for himself: “Good job, Me!”)
  • got to face forward in the carseat
  • mushed his first diced-up PB&J into his mouth (not pretty, but apparently delish).

This is all in addition to his latest hobbies, which include:

  • removing all books from his choice of the lowest bookshelves in two rooms
  • finding toilet paper in the cabinet and shredding it into small, convenient piles
  • dumping the dog water all over himself and the hardwood whenever I forget to pick it up after his nap
  • exploring in the toilet whenever one of his preschool brothers forgets to put the seat down or, even better, flush.

Yes, it’s exciting turning one, folks.

As he lies there in his crib, waving good night with those pudgy fingers and giggling with delight at this new game, my heart plunged into those two strangely diametric, but related emotions: thrilled with his growth, and sad with the realization that his firsts are my lasts.

My husband and I would like to adopt, so we’ve decided this will probably be our last biological child. And we’re not sure how or when God will lead us or to whom we’ll be led. So this is the end of an era. I have been pregnant or nursing for the last six years; the oldest of my four is five! And as my father pointed out to me, when that child turns six this summer, we will be a third done with his time in our home.

My children are growing up. They are becoming beautifully independent, doing what we’ve raised them to do. But they’re done with my body providing their nourishment, and they’re becoming more like little people than little babies. All of us have marveled at the passing of those first years — the only period of time we refer to as “when you were a baby …” — when we can still remember the marvel of a small, warm bundle placed on our chest, maybe with the striped hat and receiving blanket, making sounds only newborns make. We recall the tiny fingers flexing and the puffy face with miniature lips, and now we look at their grinning faces that recognize us and reflect their own sense of humor.

Now, make no mistake, I am also delightfully free of nightly feedings, nursing bras, and breast pumps, and I can nearly glimpse the distant promise of no diapers, dinners without a highchair to de-scuzz, and walking into my kitchen without breaking my neck on discarded kitchen utensils a short person had used to make “music” on an upturned pot.

It’s not all bad.