It hit me as I was putting groceries into the car. I looked over at her, sitting in the cart with her sunglasses on, hair in a ponytail, laughing at airplanes and talking a mile a minute about God knows what, and suddenly my breath caught in the back of my throat, and the backs of my knees got cold, and the rushing in my ears drowned out all other noise, and I realized:
My baby is GONE.
And in her place, is this new little person. With her own mind and personality and heart. I don’t know when it happened. It felt sudden, like a flip was switched somewhere while we were sleeping, and we woke up in a new frame in the slide show. In reality, it’s been happening, slowly, in tiny pieces, everyday since that day almost 2 years ago. But when days fly by in a blur, it’s hard to pinpoint the subtlety of growing up. The silent changes go unnoticed, until they’re not silent, until they’re singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star all by herself without any help from mama (SOB).
I’m ready for this new person, and all the light she brings. But I’m not ready to not have a baby anymore. Which is confusing to me, because I thought I was. Would be. It’s hard to have someone so dependent on you, but not as hard, as it turns out, as giving that someone their independence, letting go a little, tiny bit at a time. My heart swells with pride when I see her playing by herself, or with little friends. But the ache that comes when I’m rebuffed when I attempt to join her, oh, the ache. I want her to do it herself, but I want her to need me. I need her to need me still.
So maybe I hold her a little longer, a little tighter, when she asks for a hug. Maybe I bring her, half asleep, to lay next to me in bed in the mornings, so I’m the first thing she sees when she opens her eyes, the first she lights her smile on. Maybe weaning has slowed down and taken a back seat to embracing the quiet time we share, that only we can share. Thousands of little moments that make up the big ones. Little moments that mean so much.
Exact moments are big. Huge. But so are the little ones, the ones that fly by in a blur. Those moments are the ones I try to catch and hold close. They’re the ones that I want to remember. I can’t take pictures of them, or write them all down, but I have them, inside. They help me keep my baby close, as she walks farther away from me.