Recently, I’ve been sneaking into my daughter’s room after she’s fallen asleep for the night. Sometimes I push her hair from her face, thinking that even in her sleep hair-in-the-face might be bothersome. Sometimes I tuck her colchas in a little tighter, if she seems too cold, or discard a colcha, if she seems too hot.
But most often I just move really close to her face, stooping over her bed, and look at her as she sleeps.
I’m reminded of when I used to watch her sleep when she was a baby. I couldn’t get enough of looking at her. I remember holding her throughout her entire naps, so that when she wriggled awake she did so in my arms. There was no need for crying to warn me that she needed attention; I was already looking at her as she opened her eyes from her sleep.
Sometimes on the nights when I sneak back into her room, I find her pinky finger and marvel at how it has grown. That part of her in particular has always been a favorite of mine. When she was a baby girl, her pinky fingers were a mystery to me. How could such little fingers, so small, feeling so malleable, hold bones and curl around my own finger with strength? Looking at that pinky finger today, I marvel for a different reason. This pinky finger will be turning 13-years-old in a few days.
As the day nears, she often asks me, “Are you ready to have a teenager?”
And I tell her, “No, I won’t be ready until your birth date.”
Because it’s not until that date that I’ll have to accept what’s happening.
As the day nears, I find myself shifting between two sensibilities, grateful for the years I have had helping her grow, learn, and leap, and cautious for what the oncoming years will hold as I continue to help her grow, learn, and leap.
She seems to be figuring out the dual-ness of her age situation too, the two worldly differences between being my baby and being my teenager.
She asks me things like, “Do you think I could be a dance instructor and a Life Skills Teacher?”
And, “What will you do when I live in France and teach ballet?”
And, “When I move out, can I come and visit you still?”
But then she’ll revert to thinking about her past younger youth, asking me questions like, “Do you miss the days when you had to carry around a double stroller for me and your cute boy?” (“Cute boy” is her brother.)
And, “Do you wish I was still in a car seat?”
And, “Do you miss when I was in preschool and only went to school half days?”
My answer is usually the same: “No, I don’t miss those things.”
She responds in dismay, “You don’t miss that?”
And I don’t. I don’t miss any of that. I’m not the mama wanting my children to be babies longer than they need to be. I had them when they were babies. I changed the diapers, cleaned up the messy play messes, and dedicated almost all my hours—except my absolute necessary career working ones—to my children. I was blessed to be their main caregiver, and I provided for their daily hours almost exactly as I wanted to.
Even in those days of lack of sleep and extreme exhaustion, frustration at conversing only with babies for so much of my time, and growing resentment at the degree of sacrifice parenting demands, I knew to try to be present. And my reward today is feeling like I had my babies. I had them and their baby time, fleeting as it was.
Last night, when the house was still, quiet, shut down and sleeping, I snuck into my daughter’s bedroom and marveled not at the baby she once was but at the young lady she is becoming. I marveled at her peaceful stillness, her innocent beauty. And in that present moment, I realized that the gift of her life continues to amaze me, and it leaves me breathless still.