It’s late, but my daughter isn’t feeling well and is having trouble sleeping. She’s got me pulled in close, playing with my ear as she always had, and I’m simultaneously basking in the snuggle and trying to avoid her germy breathing. Up close like this, I can still see in her face the little baby I used to hold all night long. It hasn’t been that long, after all; she’s not yet five. But lately she’s appeared older than her years, in the way she interacts with adults, her sense of humor, her mannerisms and inflection in her speech. It has become harder and harder to remember not having her in my life. It seems she’s always been here, and yet it’s in the moments like this one when I catch her baby face and am reminded how new to this world she still is.
I tend to push her to grow and learn – that’s what we do, right? – but the truth is I still need her to still need me. I may roll my eyes by the third time in a row she claims she can’t do something for herself that I know she can, but what about the day when she no longer asks for my help? Won’t I then be longing for the times she would drag me onto the floor to again explore the same book we’ve been flipping through all morning? Won’t I be wishing my hands were full of all the things she’s asked me to hold when we’re walking together? As much as we want our kids to grow into confident, capable adults, anticipating that loss makes me ache.
So for now, in the darkness of her room, to a soundtrack of her deep breathing, I’ll be holding her youth as close as I do her body while keeping those germs and, for this moment, her growth at bay. My girl may no longer be a baby, but she’ll always be my baby.