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The best part of being a parent so far has been the sweet smell of my babies’ heads. If you’re not a parent, this probably sounds gross. Lovers don’t go around smelling each other’s heads, even though we spend fortunes on shampoos and other products to make our hair smell good. It’s the earthiness of a person’s scalp that we tend to shy away from.

For a mother, that smell is better than perfume. I think maybe it’s an evolutionary holdover–the way mothers tell which baby is theirs. I remember the first day of my son’s life I spent staring at his tiny body in wonder and, when I snuggled him to me, smelling his little head. It smelled like his skin. He’s eleven now and I still, when he lets me, lean over and, under the pretense of a hug, smell his sweaty pre-teen head. He wears his hair thick and shaggy and his head now smells truly sweaty, but I can still smell his skin amongst the layers of smells and it tells me he’s my baby, no matter how his voice changes or his shoulders widen.

My youngest daughter is now four and still snuggly. Perhaps because she’s my youngest, I particularly treasure those moments when she is still long enough to let me rest my nose on her head and breathe in the scent of her childhood. It’s one of those crazy mom things that I can’t put in a baby book or save on any kind of disk. And I’m so afraid that I will forget it.