A simple question over brunch. One I wasn't quite ready to answer. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it. Five has come out of nowhere.
The last four birthdays I savored and treasured every "last ____ as a ___ year old". I wept over clothes grown out of. I stored some favorite forgotten toys in a bin under my side of the bed. I made handprints, footprints and photographed her sweet smile.
This year I have assumed the crash position. Truly I hadn't even realized her birthday was coming up until 10 days before her birthday. Ten. Days.
I had a list of things needin' doin' and not much time left to do them in. Things to be made. Things to be bought. An overnight away to book. Family dinners to schedule celebrating her birthday.... and then finally maybe some friend time, maybe?
There's been no time to sit and stare and watch her change from four to five. My camera(s) have a fine layer of dust on them as my iPod is always in my pocket and always ready to take grainy, second-rate shots. Any handprints in recent memory have been washed off walls.
No savoring. No treasuring.
For the first time in over three years my little one fell asleep in my arms. To say this is a small miracle is no exaggeration.
This child moves. At all times. In all directions. Always.
When she sleeps, she sleeps hard. On her own. Without another living thing distracting her from dreams.
So when the weepy child came into our bedroom as I was having some quiet time I put my stuff away, invited her to lay on the bed, and snuggled under the down comforter. The tears subsided, the gasps for air gave way to steady breaths. Slowly I watched as she gave in to the exhaustion painted all over her face. In a matter of minutes the thumb slipped from her lips and she was done.
I, the big spoon, was able to just watch her, the little spoon, exist. To appreciate the form of the little person who was starting to drool on my arm.
So much of her is still baby: the soft curve of her cheek, the long eyelashes fluttering with dreams, her lips searching for her lost thumb, the back of her hands dotted with toddler knuckle dimples...
Yet, I can see the young girl she is edging into in those very same features. Because the baby years are well and over.
Baby-dom was beautiful. It wasn't everything I dreamed of, for sure, but it had it's own rhythm that I loved with every beat of her heart. I fell into every moment of it, let it swallow me whole, nearly drowning with her need for me.
Now I'm on the other side and truly I feel I can breathe again.
Yes, she still needs me. I'm not quite retired, yet. I know. But something about the urgency of a nursing, diapered infant is completely different from a child needing to snuggle with her Mama.
And in this moment I know I'm OK with it. That as much as I close the door to that beautiful soft stage of life that faintly smells sweetly of breast milk and baby poo, another beautiful stage is next.
I'm thinking sweaty hair and too much handsoap?