I remember fondly the days when I could carry my children in my arms. Nothing felt better than their little arms and legs hugging me, trusting me to hold them steady and keep them safe. And on those nights when they fell asleep in front of the television and I would gently scoop them up into my arms and carry them upstairs to their beds? They would rest limply in my arms, a secret smile on their lips because of course they were at least partially awake, but didn't want to admit it, just in case I would make them walk up on their own.
As they grew older and heavier, I got in the habit of giving them piggy-back rides up the stairs at night, with them groggily strangling me from behind. I always kept one hand free to grasp the railing, just in case one or both of us lost our balance, but we never did. It felt good to carry them even as they grew; it somehow boosted my confidence in my ability to lift them up in other ways. So long as I could carry them, they would never be left behind... physically, spiritually or metaphorically. They were safe.
My older son says that he knew he had crossed into young-adulthood when he started waking up on the family room couch as the sun came up, his mother long asleep in her own bed. And while we both laugh at this observation, for me it is bittersweet. I never really expected to carry him for his whole life, but I kind of wish I remembered that last trip up the stairs... wish I'd known at the time, this is it.