For six months I've been telling Naomi that four-year-olds are too old to nurse. Not because I believe that, but because it was a firm deadline that she could understand. The girl does not handle ambiguity well, and the birthday deadline was set well in advance and much discussed.
I needed the firm deadline as much as she did. As her birthday approached, I found myself wondering if I had left loopholes that would allow me to hold onto her babyhood for one more day, one more nursing session. No. Four year olds don't have snackies. I repeated the refrain to myself. For all the "I'll never do this again I'm weaning Miriam at 2 what the fuck was I thinking" talk I've been doing lately, you'd think I could have nursed her for the last time without choking up and blubbering (I kept a lid on it, though. Didn't want her reacting to my reaction. Yikes.)
The morning of her birthday I let her nurse as long as she wanted, both sides, no counting down. She popped off, wanting to talk about her party and going to the zoo with her daddy and the presents she was going to get and the trip to Broadway her Nana promised her. She was so excited about turning four that the loss of snackies was only a small blot on the landscape. At her party, she blew out her candles and held very still, as if she believed she could feel herself turn four in that moment.
Before bed last night, she asked me to get the snackies out, and she kissed them goodbye and rested her head on my chest. As I do hundreds of times a day, I nuzzled her hair and smelled her little girl smell. There was no baby, she smelled of birthday cake and sunshine, crayons and chocolate. We sat like that for a long time, saying goodbye.