Something momentous happened the other day. My little boy took his first steps to becoming a little big boy. No, it wasn’t the day he took his first step. And it wasn’t the day we took off his diaper. And, as for his finger sucking, it’s still going strong. We cut his hair. His long, ash-blond hair.

In the weeks preceding this event, I found myself surprisingly ambivalent. My husband was all for it, as he had never been a staunch supporter of growing it in the first place. The other kids were also excited at the prospect of a party. Me? I wanted to hold on to this cute babyness a little longer. Even though bath time, hair washing, combing and placement of the “cuckoo” (ponytail) had become a bigger battle, I savored his long hair.

His hair was a symbol of his connection to meFor me, his hair was a symbol of his connection to me. The last remnants of his body untouched since birth. Nails had been cut, baths had been given, and at eight days he had been entered into our holy covenant through circumcision. The umbilical cord had been severed years ago, but his hair showed the world that he was little, that he still needs his mommy.

There is a Jewish custom to wait until a boy turns three years old to cut his hair for the first time. There are many reasons behind this; most notably, many attribute this custom to the mitzvah of orlah. Jews are required to wait three years to take the first fruit from a tree. There is fruit on a tree earlier, and it seems odd that we wait when the fruits are waiting for us to enjoy them. But while we wait, the tree matures, and the fruit is stronger, lusher and more heavenly to eat. With the first bite of this fruit, the tastes assail our senses, and we appreciate it all the more.

In the days leading up to the “big snip,” our collective minds began to wonder. What would he look like? So much of his personality, thoughts and opinions centered on his long tresses. I found myself dreaming and thinking about how this would change who he was. For him, his hair gave him permission to be the baby. “Only boys with kippahs are big!” was a constant reminder and tease from his big brother. My husband rationalized that it was “just a haircut.” Huh? My kids anticipated his first moments of learning with growing amounts of headiness. The aleph-bet cookies! The honey! The goodie bags to be handed out!

My thoughts drifted to our morning routine. Getting him dressed with his “cuckoo” in place kept him near me. The simple act of grooming his hair provided extra bonding time. Now, simply placing his blue striped kippah on his head would take merely a second, and it was a task that he would be able to manage without me.

The morning dawned early and bright. With our boy dressed in his Shabbat best, off we went. The day went smoothly, and everyone enjoyed it. My husband reminded me of a story of a great rabbi who in his later years was old and frail. He needed to be taken around in a wheelchair, and one day, a young yeshivah student was given the task. “Rabbi,” he asked, “What can I learn from you while I take you around?” The rabbi answered, “There are many rabbis from whom you can learn how to answer questions in Jewish law, and learn more about the intricacies of Jewish law. But from me, you can learn to appreciate the Creator of the World. Look at the great overflowing of life that our Creator has given to the world! The flowers, the birds, the trees! I want to teach you how to appreciate life.”

I realized, as his mother, that it’s time to begin letting him growI thought about what he said, and I realized it was true. Life is not about staying a baby. Life is about growing, changing and moving forward. And, like that first bite of the fruit, I was taken aback by the sight of my son’s freshly cut hair. Here he was, full of life and energy. As he learned the aleph-bet for the first time, his eyes were opened wide with curiosity and anticipation for both the learning and the candy. He was practically bursting with inner vitality. I realized, as his mother, that it’s time to begin letting him grow.

Later, my oldest daughter kept remarking at how big he seemed, and lamented that he was surely more mature. And, yes, for those first few hours after the party, I noticed he stood a little taller, ran a little more smoothly and spilled a little less when he ate. Once again, I felt my heart constrict ever so slightly. But then his lollipop was taken away, and with the righteous indignation that only a three-year-old can muster, he came running to me with tears streaming down his face. As I held him close, I couldn’t help but feel the tiniest sigh of relief. He’s still my little boy.