You have half a year of kindergarten under your belt. You can confidently read at least fifty words. You have our address memorized. You are big enough to ride in the built-in booster seat in our car. You can make both a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a turkey and cheese sandwich on your own. You know how to sweep, mop and vacuum too.
You are certainly growing and learning by leaps and bounds. Like all parents, I wish, but I know that there is nothing I can do to stop you.
But, I have a secret power: if I’m careful and quiet, I can actually slow down time. All I have to do is hold my breath and watch.
I pause for a moment before I turn your light on to wake you up in the morning. You are buried under a half dozen baby blankets, surrounded by dolls you’ve meticulously tucked in beside you. Your curly hair splays from your head, spreading across your pillow, floating like a mermaid’s hair on water.
I peek around the corner to check on your progress in the great task of Getting Ready for School. I find you, as on all mornings, paying particular attention to the colors of your clothing, ensuring that you make a true and undeniable match. This process takes twenty minutes and therefore feels like I am truly frozen in time.
I slow my steps as we walk hand in hand to school, feeling those sweet, small fingers that still automatically reach for mine when we approach an intersection. I pray everyday that even when we’re safely across the street you’ll keep holding on, just a little bit longer. Sometimes you do. More and more, you let go.
I watch you as you stand quietly, the first in line by your classroom door. I wonder what’s going on inside that brain of yours, as your classmates run and squeal. Probably something similar to what’s going on in mine as I stand quietly observing, while other moms jibber jabber.
And then, when the bell rings, I watch you walk away from me. I. WATCH. YOU. WALK. AWAY. FROM. ME. Can we stop to just let it soak in how this moment is preparing me for the rest of your life?!?
But! A few hours later, you come running back into my arms. I’m not sure how much of you is running away from school so much as it is running towards me. But, I’ll take it. And your hint of a smile and rushed and sorry excuse for a hug. I close my eyes and I’ll take it, as I bend down to smell the sun in your hair and kiss your rosy cheeks.
Time slows when I listen to you and your sister play, overhearing things you think I can’t. Silly things and serious things. Potty words and pointed words. Sister secrets. Songs and jokes and rhymes. Made up games and made up rules. Made up voices, small and big, beautiful and strange. Fights and bribes and negotiations. And when the giggles and the grumpies overtake you, when they overflow your room, I’m still here, listening, waiting for my cue. A moment has yet to pass.
But, I’m not always so great at using my super powers. Dinner has to be made. Bills paid. Laundry folded (or at least I have to think about laundry being folded, then feel guilty for not folding it). And the Internet can’t very well read itself, now can it? There is a sister and a dog and a dad. There is homework and sight words and piano practice.
And I forget about freezing time. And I yell. And I plead. I’m too rushed, too harsh, too worried about the future. And more than once, I’ve made you cry. And more than once I’ve said, as I’ll say again now, I’m sorry.
I hold you in my lap, calming our tears, and everything else melts away.
I remember to take pause as I wash your hair and comb out an obscene amount of tangles. I help you get dressed for bed even though you don’t need my help anymore. I look for your lovey (who is as old as you are) in all the usual places and in all the unusual places you like to forget you’ve hid her--inside cardboard boxes, play purses, shoes and inside other toys! We read books and you read the occasional word for me, but eventually urge me to “just read it, Mommy.” You pray the same prayer you’ve prayed since you could, “Thank you God for a good day and I pray for a fun day tomorrow.” And we sing “Baby Beluga” just as we’ve done since the day you were born, “Goodnight, little whale, goodnight. Goodnight, Maribel, goodnight,”--except now, you sing along.
And if I let it, this day will turn into tomorrow and the next and the next. And the days will run together as they are wont to do. They’ll run into weeks and years.
But, not today. I won’t let it run away with you. I’m staying here in this moment. For, you are every moment this day held, every moment leading to this day and every moment to follow--awesome and inspiring and profound.
So, I savor your sweet voice. I squeeze you and kiss you and tell you I’ll see you when the sun comes up. And I turn off your light. I watch you settle in, your toys and blankets surrounding you just so. Your hair, a curly halo. Ending this day just as it began.
And I will myself. I use all my strength and concentration. But even my super powers have their limits, so I blink, a moment passes, time moves and in the morning: six you shall be!
Happy Birthday, my Dearest Babybel!
Love you no matter what,
If you want to feel a little more nostalgic...
Babybel: The First Five Years