She turned sixteen yesterday.
She's no longer the sweet chubby-faced baby I knew so well. I knew every inch of her, in the knowing way of mothers, from the curls that swooped around her curving ears to her fat little toes I kissed each morning.
I knew her quirks and her desires, how she liked her oatmeal and how her brother made her squeal. She made me beam with just her existence. And her face would light up like a mirror of mine when she saw me.
And so I find myself ticking off the passing years like counting on my fingers. Sixteen of them gone, lost in the river of time that flows away so rapidly behind me. Two more before she reaches legal adulthood, although there is already a woman that looks out at me from behind her big brown eyes.
She is stunning, this woman who has taken the place of my baby.
On her first birthday, she stretched her round rolly arms toward me, her face a brilliant smile. Back when I was her world and she was mine.
On her sixteenth, she stretched those same arms, now so graceful and slender with womanhood, toward a room full of her friends. Her arms spread wide like she wanted to embrace the world and all of the living she could muster.
So much time I've lost in the hectic schedule of our busy lives. Time lost to financial stress and folded laundry and my hopeless pursuit of the elusive clean refrigerator.
Time lost to "Hurry up and find your shoes!" and "Hurry up and get your pajamas on!" and "Hurry up, you're dawdling!" and "Hurry up, you'll be late for school!" And "Hurry up! Hurry up! Hurry up!"
I take it all back. Every useless time I felt like I needed her to hurry. Please, let me take it back.
I want to scream at her to please slow down.
I need more time. I feel like I ran through the years without paying attention. I was too busy trying to keep my head above water to enjoy the swim in the waves. Too busy trying to keep her fed and clean and safe to enjoy the person that once balanced so precariously on my hip.
Now she balances so precariously on the threshold of adulthood. Part of me wants to hold her tightly, close to me where she is safe, where she is still mine to hold. And part of me wants to nudge her through the doorway, ever-so-softly... because I know that she can fly.
I am a mother who is conflicted. I want my baby and yet I feel such pride watching her grow into all that I know she can become, watching her slip so comfortably into her potential, like Cinderella slipping into the glass slipper. She is still my princess (and I don't care if it's a horribly cheesy cliche).
It's one of the wild and complicated aspects of motherhood, that such profound sadness and such profound joy can reside in the same body at precisely the same moment. My heart is being stretched and twisted beyond what I think it can bear.
That wheel of parenthood, once it gets moving just rolls faster and faster, each year taking our babies farther away from us.
Two more years. It's not nearly long enough. There's still so much to do. So much to tell her. So little time to hold her here with me, before she bursts out into the world full of the desire for living.
So I will not tell her to hurry. Not ever again.
I wish I had never urged her to move faster. Because the days are long while children can be frustratingly slow.
But the years are short... oh-so-very short. They fly by too fast.
There's no need to hurry.
Originally published on Different Than Average.
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