I’m not sure how or why we got here so fast. Halfway, they say. Halfway to 18, halfway to college. Halfway until you are gone from this home as a child. NINE. Nine years of you. Nine years of a reinvented me (being mommy). Nine years of love and life and laughing — and all other emotions too.
It’s true what they’ve told me: The days are long but the years are short. I always smiled and believed them, never once begrudging them. I’ve been close by for everything (only working part-time at the most, to be with you and your sister at home) and I’ve always maintained that “Children grow at exactly the right rate if we just slow down, pay attention and appreciate things as they’re happening.” I’ve never wanted time to stop, because each stage has been most fulfilling in a most uplifting way.
I get excited thinking of so many fun years ahead too…
But even though I’m smiling (as I write this), a sappy silly part of me is also weeping at the thought of time passing so swiftly.
NINE: This middle point of your childhood. The time you’ve been here in our family is now equal to the years ahead of us before you start college. The near-end of little girl things, on the cusp of teenager things. Technically a tween now. My first baby.
When I look at you, I see all the things everyone told me I’d see during this in-between time:
I still see the newborn whose eyes were born wide open, unblinking and locked with mine in that hospital room long ago.
I still see the infant who couldn’t stop cooing at her own reflection, laying on her back in that jungle gym mirror, plopped in the middle of the floor in our old apartment.
I still see the 2-year-old who wailed at the top of her lungs for wild, sequined “puh-puh” [purple] fancy shoes at Nordstrom until I finally gave in and bought them instead of those practical, plain silver ones that would’ve gone with every outfit more easily.
I still see the 3-year-old who ran up and down our hallway every afternoon in an Elsa dress, belting “Let It Go.” I’d sing with her and then we’d giggle and “Shhh!” ourselves, so we didn’t wake up little sister (who was napping).
In my eyes, you’re still that baby, that toddler, that preschooler who I’d drop off three mornings a week with a “Bye-bye, mama! Bye-bye sissy! See you later!” from you.
You were my big girl. And now, you really are a big girl.
You’re now a tween who knows exactly what she’s doing — yet also secretly second-guesses herself in the name of wanting to do things ‘the right way.’ (Like me at your age.)
You’re a tween who takes the lead with your little sister — yet also often thinks that little sister’s ideas seem more fun. (Like I did with my little sister as a child.)
You’re a tween who begs to try and do all the things (dance, music, arts, sports) — yet also just wants to come home from school and unwind in front of the TV without any kind of agenda. (Like me… now.)
You jump into projects and expect a lot from yourself. And, if that drawing or worksheet doesn’t entirely turn out the way you pictured in your head, you are much too hard on yourself and refuse to listen when I say “It’s all good, don’t worry….” (You’ll learn… like I did.)
Little girl, you are so much of me… but so much better.
And yet, through you, I also see so much of HER… my mommy. Your Grandma.
When you sit at the piano and count the tempo out loud while your fingers plunk the notes, she’s there — saying “One and two and three and four….” When you’re dancing onstage, big-smiling through all that choreography you practiced in our kitchen, her voice is in my mind — “Get out there, plant that smile on your face and perform!” When we brush your gorgeously thick hair and pull it halfway up to accentuate how naturally abundant and it is (you lucky girl!), I see her through your face in the mirror. She may not be here with us anymore, but she’s here through YOU. Through you, my darling, her life lives and lifts me up more than you will ever know. Every day.
Yes, my girl, I feel so very much — for YOU and the little lady you are becoming. More and more, now that we’ve reached halfway.
In as many years that have already passed, you will be launching your own life’s flight — if I continue to do my job right! — to seek, to learn, to find, to return to me as you [we] need each other throughout the rest of my life. For that is every mom’s most sacred gift — the relationship with our children.
I am beyond beholden that you are you, that you are mine, that I am yours. Forever and ever.
My (first) girl, you are fabulous. All the way, already.