I blinked and it happened.
My eyes closed and she toddled toward me, all chubby-armed and wild-haired, babbling her first words.
They opened and she sat next to me on the couch yesterday, all lean with freshly-cut bangs, easily reading books aloud to me from cover to cover. My heart swells proud and breaks open with the bitter sweetness of it all.
I breathed in and she was two, no interest in pink frills or princesses, much preferring trains and trucks and wholly unimpressed with the world of branded merchandise. We were so pleased with ourselves for avoiding the gender-stereotyping and character-driven madness that lines the toy aisles.
I breathed out and she'll skip into Kindergarten tomorrow, clutching her beloved, personalized Ariel backpack. And a significant piece of my heart.
They told me it would happen. All of those veteran moms and wise friends and elderly strangers at the grocery store. With wistful sighs and pats on her head, their own memories playing like filmstrips behind misty eyes. At times I could glimpse the future and see it happen, could recognize it happening already. At others I was too caught in the momentary struggles to appreciate the perspective.
It goes so fast.
Each night this week as I've tucked her into bed, we've snuggled up together, she and I, for some “special, big-girl talks”. It's a tradition we plan to continue one night every week for as long as she'll allow. She pours out excitement about school and meeting new kids and meals in the cafeteria, sprinkled with worries about bullies and who will help when she needs a Band-aid. I speak reassurance and reminders, offering words about kindness to all, and seeking for close friends those who make her feel good about herself; about confidence in who she is and the work of her Creator within her. She takes it all in, and asks if grown-ups still have trouble with those things. I smile and say yes. We do. “I thought you would say that”, she replies. And I marvel at these moments when she's wiser than her years.
She bursts with delighted giggles as I remind her how very proud her Daddy and I are of her. Our big five-year-old girl who collects Care Bears, loves Jesus, and names her favorite activity as “snuggling up with my Mama”.
We pray and lie close. We blink in the dark and breathe deep.
And I savor every blink and breath, because now I know.