You know something is good when you start missing it before it’s gone, when your daily gratitude brings tears and the helplessness to freeze everything overwhelms.
When you have a child on your own in your 40s, many of your friends have grown kids, and they all say the same thing:
“It goes too fast. Cherish the moments.”
I’m here to tell you – you’re doing it.
When you come home from work, physically exhausted and emotionally drained, you shove it all aside. You dance with Autumn and host her playdates. You walk to the park and read her books – and sometimes, you read one more. You invite over Nana and Papa and take millions – no billions – of pictures. So many you sometimes wonder what happened and when? But then you realize it doesn’t matter.
Because it’s all just a blur of special.
You marvel as Autumn takes charge, directing interactive shows. Sometimes it’s:
“Papa, you’ll swing me. Mama, you’re the presenter, and Nana, you can be the audience.”
Others it’s first Papa then Nana then Mommy – to march around the room and tumble on the floor. Always, they oblige, and always with the same caveat:
“Okay, but I might not be able to get up.”
They are joking, but also not, but either way, they love being included and even more, they love her. But mostly, you love watching your daughter and your parents together.
You set up special routines based on the “Simplicity Parenting” podcast by guru Kim John Payne, lighting a candle before dinner and reminding, “I love you infinity forever everywhere” each night before sleep.
You’re killing it with screen moderation, with one day a week “TV Day,” and even then, you don’t overwatch. You know you allow too much sugar, but you also adore the routine. After dinner, opening the high cabinet, Autumn gazing upward in awe at the reveal. The brimming old school candy jar waking up, the sound of her dumping dozens of individually wrapped pieces on the floor, the wrappers a menagerie of colors, shapes and textures. She sifts and considers, debates and then chooses – the two winners, the rest carefully saved for next time.
You sit on the floor and listen as she shows you her new ballet move, balancing on one foot and leaning forward. In between Smarties and licks of her Apple lollipop, she says her teacher was, “totally cracking up in class today,” and you marvel at the way your three-and-a-half year old already sounds – and is starting to look – like a teenager.
You’re patient while she lounges in the bath, playing until she’s pruny, pouring water over a brush or coloring with beeswax crayons on the wall. And then you wrap her up cozy in her Wonder Woman towel with the hood, and surprise her with unicorn slippers.
When she’s clean and dry, you lie on the floor, looking at the ceiling, playing her made-up game.
“What do you see in the clouds?” she asks. We find shapes of our next door friends – Tatiana and Anton, Vlad and Mila. We see Aunt Rada, Hally, Leah and Sam and Toddy and elephants and cats.
Then you head toward the closet, to the turquoise bag, filled with ‘new’ old books, and select “Moonbeam Bear.” She connects that it’s similar to “Papa, Will You Get the Moon for Me?” and my teacher heart swells, checking off 4th grade standards for my preschool-aged daughter.
She cuddles close, your chest her pillow.
“I wish I could be with you all the time,” she says. And of course, you do too.
But also, you keep your own self. You pursue your writing, and think hard about working out. You prioritize you on your birthday, trying hard to get rid of the guilt. You let her have her childhood – and even her paci still sometimes – because you want her to be happy, but also well-adjusted.
So do not look back with regret 15 years from now, wishing you had held on tighter, listened longer.
I’m here to tell you, you’re doing it. This reminder, your birthday gift to yourself.