SmallBoy has always been very good about going to, and staying in, bed - both for naps and at bedtime. Upon awakening, he plays quietly, talking to himself, until someone comes to retrieve him. Even when he graduated from a crib to a regular bed a few weeks ago, he stayed on his bed until someone came into his room to get him. Some mornings he'd entertain himself for 45 minutes before calling for company.

Until today. This morning, as usual, I woke to the sound of his small voice. A few minutes later he called for me, and I replied that I'd be there in a minute. A few seconds later, my bedroom door opened and he announced, in a somewhat surprised tone "I came out of my room."

The downside to this momentous leap in independence is that, about three and a half minutes after I put him to bed for his nap just now, he proclaimed from the stairs "I'm coming down, mom, I'm all done."

Now that he knows he can get out of bed by himself, he's going to exercise this newfound ability as often as he can. Which means an end to my peaceful afternoons, I fear.

This is the essence of motherhood, I think - publicly applauding their successes while privately mourning their incremental steps away from you.

It's a very strange thing. At the moment your child is conceived, it is completely dependent on you. Sometime after 26 weeks, it reaches the stage where it can live without you, although the physical separation isn't complete until birth. From that point on, every day moves you a little further apart. And this is something a good mother encourages - delights in, even - but with a little pang of sorrow for every step her child takes away from her.