“It’s like someone flips a switch,” my husband mused. “One day they’re little and cute, everything they do adorable. Then you wake up and they’re grown.”
We sat together on the front porch, sipping on our coffee in the shade, as a cool breeze blew making the morning pleasant despite the beating sun. I nodded my agreement in the quietness of our conversation. Our daughters all still slept, and in the stillness of early day, before their raucous laughter filled every crack, my husband and I talked freely about every topic from Old Testament prophets, to why Publix bakery could do no wrong in our book of sweet treats. I pondered his most recent observation, and I won’t lie; it caused my heart to whimper.
My five year old daughter was the most spirited, unique, and joyful child I had ever encountered. I’m sure I am partial, but each word from her mouth either made my eyebrow raise, jaw drop, or body convulse in laughter. A trip alone to the store with her brought the kind of content to inspire a sitcom. She currently hung in the balance between innocence and childhood discovery. She teetered in that very special place of believing in fairies, but more importantly, believing her daddy hung the moon. Her cheeks still held cherub-like chubbiness, her fingers without the lines of grown hands. Her head was larger in proportion to her body, her appearance the last of toddling giggles before Buddha bellies disappear and real childhood takes shape. She was still the pint size that made piggybacks possible and rocking in your lap a thing. Her frame was the perfect makeup for early morning cuddles, or late night hideouts under the covers. For now, at least.
Like a switch, my husband had said, and no thing could be more true. Having watched my other daughters spring up as the years rolled by had given me an educated insight, but had done little to block the blow of it happening again. Perhaps it was different this time because she was the last. The last baby.
Preschoolers, you see, have their own unique language as they’re transversing the land of phonics and annunciation. L’s are W’s, and pronouns are very little understood. Grammar unheard of, plural possessives erroneously uttered, but it’s cute. Eventually you have to correct them, but for the most part you smile, locking away in the memory banks of life that particularly adorable way they say words like pasketti (spaghetti) or aminal (animal). My own mom always reminisced over my requests for pale nolish on my toes. Nobody tells you, though, that one day your kid suddenly describes a banana as yellow instead of lellow.
One day they eat the crusts off their sandwich or they go to bed without kissing you goodnight. One day they smell like baby powder, but the next thing you know they smell like B.O. One day you’re nourishing them from your breast, but before you even have time to mentally prepare, you’re shopping for your daughter a bra. It’s crazy how that happens.
My husband’s words on the front porch interrupted my thoughts, “I soak up every bit of her being little as I can.”
I nodded some more. I think I even whispered, “yes” in agreement.
It seems, life was like a river. Sometimes the water level was low, but other times it threatened to overflow the banks. Sometimes you could sit lazily on the side, watching the ripples of the calm current, reveling in the way the sun reflected off the water. But most of the time, I reckon, it seemed like the river just flowed. Certainly faster than I preferred. You had to hang on to the raft to not fear the rapids, to enjoy the ride no matter how wild it sometimes seemed. You had to take the time to picnic on the outer banks, enjoying the company of those God put in your boat. I mean, before you knew it, they were too big to fit inside. And yes, I’m totally thinking about my king-sized bed being too small as of late.
That afternoon, after our morning quiet, coffee and conversations, I took my youngest to the store with me. I buckled her seatbelt when she had trouble doing it on her own. I sat in my seat patiently, waiting for her to put her shoes back on in the grocery store parking lot, even though I had told her not to take them off. I pushed a stray, wirey curl back behind her ear, and I held her tiny, chubby hand as we slowly plodded through the crosswalk. The thing was, the switch hadn’t been flipped yet. So, I lived each moment not in dread of the passage of time, but in enjoyment of the journey that took me there.