It happens all the time now. I look at my daughter and I’m stunned. Somebody snuck into my house one night and swapped her. It’s most alarming. The other day, I was driving somewhere and I turned around to look at her. Suddenly her legs were long. Her body had shape. She looked at me and crinkled up her face so I couldn’t see her eyes – her signature smile – and then she stuck her index finger in the air, waved it around to the beat of music and looked out the window. I turned back around, speechless. We really need to change our locks, I thought. These baby swappers have infiltrated society. Nowhere is safe.
Sometimes, I watch my mum and ponder the way she has freely let go of us, supporting our independence and explorations away from home without trying to clutch us close or dabble in our affairs. I’m sure her breath catches in her throat every now and again when she looks back upon the time of babies resting on her chest, smelling of fresh baths and buttermilk, realizing that those days are gone and that we have moved on. I watch her silently when she is with Ella and I know with certainty that the joy she feels is piercing. I can tell that having little babies around again to love completes her world in a way nothing else does. And yet, she has perfected the art of letting go. She rides with life and has always let things, and us, be as they are, even if that means far away from her. How challenging this has been to do, I can only imagine.
My daughter? The one who I’m certain I birthed just yesterday, she is growing up, out and away. I watch her tantrum when I say no to something she wants, and in the middle of red-hot tears and a face which looks up at me like, I don’t know, I’ve betrayed her, I see that our separation has begun. Ella has learned that not only am I not the solution to all of her problems, but perhaps I might be the cause of them. And then, right there in that moment, a tiny bit of heartache creeps into my chest as I fight the urge to wrap her in a swaddle and take her to a land far, far away where she was me and I was her and the line between where we both started and ended got all mixed up.
As we grow, Ella and I, we will each stretch toward new independence–her towards her interests, her friends, her dreams and myself toward–well, my interests, my friends, my dreams. It will be good. I know that I will be happy. We will still be intimately connected in new and exciting ways. But I also know that what I have right now is fleeting –two little people who comfortably remain in the security of this sliver of time where they are mine. During moments where one is slung to my hip and the other is flipping wildly inside my belly, and little friends and friends’ mamas are circled around us, I think to myself, “I’m going to miss this.”
Bikes in the backyard, alongside circus tents, all primary-colour bright.
Doing tiny pig tails and securing pretty headbands and pulling out tutus from the special box just because it’s dress up day.
Having her body come tottling over and plonking itself down in my lap, just sitting there looking out to the water together.
Sewing teeny tiny dresses with pretty lace and floral print and wanting to call every friend I have to declare, Stop what you are doing right now. I JUST CLOTHED MY GIRL. FROM SCRATCH. LIKE AS IN, ONCE THERE WAS ONE YARD OF MATERIAL AND NOW SHE IS WEARING A DRESS.
Picking cherry tomatoes straight from the garden, watching eyes widen as they pop inside little mouths while juice runs down little chins.
Days spent together, just the two of us, where I am all the company she wants.
Dragging bright red wagons to the beach, spilling with spades and buckets and strawberries to snack on.
All these things, so many things, I know I will miss.
So, I have learned to gooooo slooooow. Really, if I have more than one thing on each day I freak out. I consciously ask myself several times a day, What are you going to miss? About today. About right now. About her. This simple ritual has almost become a spiritual practice for me, landing me into a place of gratitude and affection, because often the answers are the very things which are annoying me about right now. The splattering of toys and children’s books and puzzles which forever litter our lounge room floor. The needy hands which constantly cling and grab at me, asking for a story, a walk, a hug. The noise, the mess, the energy of having little souls living alongside you. One day it will be done and gone, and I will miss it.
So, I wake up each morning and my most important, truest, worthwhile goal – besides finding the perfect pair of strappy sandles for summer – is to give in to this beautiful, agonizing, wild, soul-stretching ride only mamahood can fling you upon.
Friday Photo Dump – my small Instagram happies of the week (@theredtent if you care to follow the feed).
Have a great weekend, friends — somebody have a few gin and tonics for me, please.
See you back here soon.