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Looking FOURward

I’ll never forget the first birthday party I attended with Autumn for someone who wasn’t one of my friend’s daughters. I was excited for her, dreading it for me, as interested in spending a Sunday afternoon at a jumping place with strangers as I was in teaching summer school. And while I’m sure the birthday girl will have fond memories of celebrating with all her preschool friends, I, too, went home with a goody forever etched in my mind.

When we arrived, the host ran to greet Autumn.

“Come play with us!” she said, at which point my daughter hugged onto my leg like it was a flotation device thrown to her in choppy waters.

“I want to play with you and with my friends,” she whispered. And then, before I could respond, she was off, and I was left, standing alone watching four little pony tails bounce away. I never felt more empty and full, melancholy and proud…that my daughter was growing up.

And now, weeks later, when I anticipate her 4th birthday, the same emotions emerge.

I’ve always had stellar eyesight, but for some reason, when I look back, I wear rose-colored glasses, and so, as the calendar ticks toward April 21st, I remind myself that while I’ve enjoyed her first few years, they were also so…very…hard.

To begin with, she was born at the start of COVID – scary! – and we were living with my parents – loser! – and Autumn didn’t sleep through the night – exhausted!

Then there was my return to work. The teary good-byes, the sorrow palpable, regret overbearing.

And now, as an older mom, my energy reserves zap far more rapidly than decades ago. And as I tire, I wish my body fat diminished as quickly as my patience.

I view getting out of the house with a toddler by any specified time as an Olympic event – one in which I will never qualify to compete. Because three-year-olds have zero concept of what it means that Sunday school begins at 9:30, whether we are there or not, and 47-year olds get it all too well.

That time keeps moving, no matter what.

But it’s also in her first few years that this middle-aged educator has learned to apply lessons from two decades of yoga to real life.

Yes, I was upset the moment she got lipstick on the wall, but I was also grateful that after Uncle Brian painted over it, I could still detect remnants. I hate that the Paci Fairy is coming to take Nana Paci away and that her big girl bed will be delivered and that she’s already reading to me during story time, but I also love that there won’t be a huge giraffe sticking out of her face, that we’ll have more space to cuddle at bedtime, and that I get to be the listener after a long day.

I love it, and I loathe it, and everything in between.

The other afternoon, she opened the door to the garage for the first time. She chose the big swing over the baby one. And she rode her tricycle all the way to the park. When we got home, she said:

“You can give my pink car away. I’m too big for it now.”

So, trying to keep dry eyes – it’s just a hunk of plastic – we gifted it to our neighbor to push her one-year old.

A few hours later, Autumn took a beat, noticing – for the first time – her parking space empty. But I know she will soon fill that void – just as she has with me for the past three years and 318 days.

And I’m grateful to have such a cool passenger with whom to enjoy the ride.

Mommy On.

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