Five was a milestone. I expected to be emotional (and I was). Just like everyone had warned, I blinked and we were picking out lunch boxes and going to Kinder orientation.
But six? Oh my sweet Bug, I truly didn't see this one coming...
I can remember my first night in the hospital with you when I was awakened from my sleepy, narcotic-induced stupor by a knock on the door.
"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Seward," said the soft-spoken nurse. She reminded me of a plumper version of my grandmother- kind eyes, and a mouth that was always turned up just a bit at the corners, like she was privy to some inside joke. "I know she just ate, but..." she laughed a bit, "we can't seem to keep her quiet."
"Oh, no. What's wrong??" (Clearly, only 12 hours into motherhood, I was already a seasoned worrier). Instinctively, I held my arms out toward the squirming burrito in the clear bassinet.
"Oh, she's absolutely fine," nurse-grandma assured me. "Nothing's wrong at all! She hasn't really been crying so much as...well...just making lots of noise. She started waking up the other babies, so we tried moving her away from them into a separate corner of the nursery...but," she looked at me sheepishly. "I've taken care of a lot of babies in my day, and this is one ALERT newborn."
And there it was: my first-ever glimpse into the tiny person I had grown inside me: though not even seven pounds, you were already proving yourself a force to be reckoned with. (And nobody puts baby in a corner, amiright?)
As your Momma, I have become- among many things- a curator of these insights, and all things Ella Claire. Each one has revealed a different layer to the person you're becoming. Some have made me giggle, melted me, made me insanely proud. Others have broken me and made me scared for you. (No doubt because they remind me so much of myself). Within minutes, anyone who's been around you can see the obvious: you're strong-willed. Passionate. Outspoken. A natural leader. But six years with you has shown me so much more: that you often view yourself as a "fixer" or peacemaker. You're terrified to let people down. You have a strong, innate sense of justice. You can intuit circumstances that are well beyond your years. Your compassion knows no bounds. Your sarcastic wit is surprisingly sharp (and I love it!) You thrive off of being needed.
And yet, you still need me so much.
If we're being completely honest, there are times when I'm just tired. I'm overwhelmed by piles of laundry and meal-planning and running a business and keeping Olive from choking on whatever it is that she just put in her mouth, and I sometimes resent the moments when you need me. In my selfishness, I want you- sometimes even expect you- to be bigger and more grown up than you are. But there was that moment when you said, "Okay, Mom. I'll wear that dress if it'll make you happy," and if there was an actual, physical way to kick myself in the ass, I would have done it right then and there. And then, those quiet moments beside you in your bed, after we've gone through our nightly ritual and I've scratched your back (circles, not straight lines), tucked you in with your blanket and Monkey, that I actually see you for the first time all day and note how grown-up your features look as you sleep, how your long legs dangle over the edge of the bed, the fact that your toes actually graze the carpet. It's those moments that make me acutely aware of the irony that the bigger you grow, the more fragile you become. And in my head, I want to take it all back- every frustrated sigh, every "big girl" sentiment (whether spoken or implied), the size 7 (seven???) dress that I put in the basket at Target. The truth is that I'm still so afraid of breaking you, it's almost like they've handed you to me as newborn all over again.
So it shouldn't have been any surprise then, that this morning, I watched from the van as you skipped your way into the building for your last day of Kindergarten and I had to choke back the tears. I flashed back to that first time last October when you lovingly- but firmly- stopped me from getting out of the car to walk you inside with a simple, "It's okay, Mom. I'm good." It was another one of those defining moments for us both- you with your backpack bobbing on your tiny frame and pony tail swinging jubilantly. And me: the cliched mini-van version of myself, leaning awkwardly out of the driver's side window blowing you kisses you never turned around to see. (I mean, can I get a round of applause or something? Truly it was a spectacle). But as I drove away today, the thought occurred to me that I think we've made it- you and me. We're finally in that sweet spot- the coveted one that all the Veteran moms who have been-there-done-that had promised would eventually come after the tumultuous twos and threes (and fours).
We're here. And that's most certainly the icing on the cake. (The one I still need to decorate).
Today, it's more of a bittersweet spot. But tomorrow? Tomorrow, we ride the impending sugar rush of all that's sweet. I couldn't be more grateful.