I remember one day in eighth grade, sitting in yearbook class, I was checking my phone every few minutes. I was waiting for a text message to find out if my cousins were going to have a son or daughter. They already had two sons, and my other cousin had a daughter. I was hoping for a girl, to even things out. And because I desperately wanted another girl.

I didn’t get my girl. Instead, I got another boy. Instead, I got Carter. I expected to be disappointed by the news, but I was just excited for a new baby. From the moment I knew he was coming, Carter was my baby. When he arrived, he was the sweetest, happiest little baby I’d ever seen. I was obsessed with him, and he was just as smitten with me. I always wanted to hold him and to buckle him into his car seat and to walk him to his Sunday school classroom. If he needed any sort of attention, I always volunteered. I played with him, sang to him, took naps with him. I watched, amazed, as he grew from a chubby little baby to a smart, sensitive little boy.

Just a couple days ago, Carter turned seven. Seven. I still can’t believe it. But he’s not the only one of my babies that’s growing up way too fast; they all are: Spencer, Olivia, Chloe, Andrew, Bentley, Alyssa, Nathan, Leland. All of my cousins/nephews/nieces, whatever you want to call them: I have watched all of these babies grow up right in front of my eyes. At some point in their lives, I have taken care of each one of these kids, and whether they know it or not, they all have been a major part of my life.

Carter was the first baby I remember being born. But Spencer and Allen were the first babies I was ever trusted to take care of. And Chloe was my first girl, my little ballerina. Olivia was the quiet one, who always behaved. Andrew was the sweet one, who just wanted to cuddle. Bentley let me take a million pictures of him and sang along to Taylor Swift with me. Alyssa, my crazy, stubborn, tough  little girl, followed my every move. Nathan–who I swear was a newborn like, two weeks ago–has the most beautiful head of curly hair I’ve ever seen and the sweetest smile. And Leland, my chubby, smiley little nephew, loves his daddy so much he can’t be bothered with anyone else most of the time.

I  love teaching and taking care of kids. And I have two jobs where I get to hang out with little ones. But I miss my babies. Going to school so far away from home is difficult for many reasons, but a big one for me is that I feel as though I’m missing out. All of my babies are growing up and becoming independent people, and I’m stuck here, watching from afar. I love seeing their pictures pop up on my Instagram and Facebook. I miss being able to actually witness their achievements in real time, though.

They’ve all been through so much, at such young ages. Despite their struggles, they continue to do amazing things that impress me every day. I am so, so proud of each of them. And no matter where I am (even from 800 miles away), I am still cheering them on. I will always be cheering them all on.

 

 

 

 

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