Her mouth is a jumble of big and small teeth. When she smiles a single adult front tooth disrupts the upper row, throwing the whole grin adorably off-kilter with its size and slight angle inward. I was staring at a picture texted to me by my husband of her face and that smile tonight, expanding the image between my finger and thumb until all I could see was that smile. It’s the first physical manifestation of her transition from my little girl to…not so little. Sure, there was the whole baby teething time period, but that was still a part of infancy. A time when I could not wait for those milestones to come and go. But now, I’m not so eager.
I stared at that tooth and my heart sank. We are on the march to adolescence, and it’s a fast one. Rag-time fast and syncopated.
She’s only 7. Some days she wants to sit on my lap and have me hum a familiar song. She nuzzles in while I comb her hair with my fingers, from her temple around her ear to her neck. The low hum and repeated path of my fingers along her scalp lulls her to sleep. Other days she’ll talk to me about her little sister and brother in the hushed voice of a wise collaborator in parenting.
Mom, don’t worry. I told him that sometimes you have to try things that make you a little nervous ’cause that’s when the great stuff happens. I told him it’s okay to be scared, and that you can be brave and scared at the same time.
I’m nervous, but I know great stuff is about to happen. All too soon her smile will be uniformly grown-up [please God, without the assistance of orthodonture] and she’ll shudder when I start to hum that slow song. At times she’ll wish for the 250 miles of distance that lies between us tonight, and roll her eyes when I remember out loud that day when she got her first pair of glasses and how cute her little snaggletooth smile was. She’ll also be on her way to becoming the amazing adult I get to see glimpses of now. Sweet and brave and strong. Clever and kind and freckled.
Still, I already miss the little girl she was just last year and I miss her tonight, right now.