That smile.

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.

Good nigh, sweet girl. Mommy loves you.

Good night, sweet girl. Mommy loves you.

Kodachrome.

The package arrived while I was at work and I saw it by the door as soon as I walked in.  Three pairs of small-to-large baby blue rain boots stood guard around the cardboard box.

I knew what it was and knew that I’d wait until after everyone was asleep before I opened it.  After the last request for another bedtime song, drink of water, and cheeseburger (the last was not granted), I poured myself a glass of wine and sat on the living room floor with the box in front of me.  The dog sat a few feet away with a sad look on her face. Like she knew what was in the box and that I was about to cry, or maybe her super-dog nose detected the molecules of her long lost friend.  Her friend, my mom. Continue reading

Say it.

*For my mom. I miss you.

I was hours away from the Junior Prom.  The dress was laid out on the bed with both pairs of new black pantyhose. (One could snag when putting them on, so mom had purchased a back-up.)  I decided that with my black dress, adorned with black plastic jewels along the neckline, and black hose, that red would be the perfect color for my nails.  I went to a local salon for the arduous process of fake nail adhesion, sculpting and painting that was so popular in the early 90’s.  The nail technician worked for hours to glue and shape those nails, and for what felt like hours she sanded away the surface of those newly applied fake nails along with layers of my own skin.

I sat in that chair and let the woman run the nail file over my fingers again and again.  I winced and said “ow.” And she would move more gingerly for a few seconds, then start grinding away again.  By the time she was done, I had ten shiny, long red nails and ten bloody fingertips to match.  She used nail polish remover to stem the bleeding, all the while never showing any sign that what was going on was the slightest bit unusual.  I paid (and tipped her!) for her work, and went home.

My mother was furious.  She grabbed my hands and asked what happened.  I shrugged and said I needed to get ready.  I only had three more hours to get dressed—barely enough time to curl my hair and put makeup on!  She was fuming.  She called the salon to complain but that was not enough.  We were going back. Continue reading

The Last Day.

My children are 6 and a half, almost 5 and 2. They are not babies anymore.  I know, I know…it goes so fast.  Kids grow up.  From the time you are first visibly pregnant, strangers tell you to enjoy it. They grow up so fast.  They are right, of course, though the topic of unsolicited and largely unwelcome parenting advice is for another time (as is the topic of people asking if you are pregnant).   It does go fast–sometimes. Other times the clock feels like it is moving about half as fast as a century-old turtle in molasses.  The sleep-little nights stack up to a mountain of exhaustion and you feel like it is never going to end.

I have wished out loud more than a few times for time to speed up.  I’ve longed for the end of sore nipples and for the diaper deliveries to cease. For the irrational “no” to stop being the most common word that escapes my 2 year old’s mouth.  For meals in public and adult conversations that are not cut short by the behavior of tiny-tot tyrants. For a time when I no longer have to brush 3 sets of teeth before I brush my own in the morning.  I know I shouldn’t wish for these days to end.  Each day is a gift and [insert another e-card inspirational quote and/or phrase here].  There are truly so many wonderful things about babies and small children, but for every delicious first giggle there is a brutal first fit of inconsolable crying.  This parenting thing is wonderful, and it’s excruciating.

But the days inevitably go by without our prompting, and babies–they stop being babies.  A few days ago, my 2 year old chose to use a potty.  We’d placed the green plastic seat in his room weeks ago and I half-heartedly planned for a weekend of potty training that would take place later, when I was ready for it.  He had his own ideas though and didn’t wait for me to be ready.  I was changing him for bed and he said, “I use da potty.”  I smiled and plopped him down, and he immediately employed the receptacle as it was intended.  We high-fived and cheered. He shrieked, “I deed it! I deed it!”, while his sisters danced a happy potty dance around him (think the classic sprinkler move…with an imaginary toilet, and the arms are not spraying water…well, you get it).   The entire surface of his face was painted with joy.  I was watching him watch his sisters and committing his triumphant, scrunched-nose smile to memory, when it hit me.  He’s not a baby.  I don’t have babies anymore.

This thing that I had wished for in so many low moments had happened.  Time was speeding by and it was as bittersweet as the chocolate I used to console myself after they were all in bed that night.

If we are lucky, our kids grow up.  We get to see them change and learn new things about the world and themselves.  We get to sit across the table from them and hear their thoughts on caterpillars, friendship and why ancient cultures no longer exist.  We get to see glimpses of the kind and funny, sarcastic and athletic, cunning and creative adults they will be.  And, if we are very lucky, we get to see them actually become those adults.

It was his last day as a baby, but I wished for more.  More days with my babies in all of their post-diaper glory, dancing awkwardly in celebration of passing milestones.  More time with them not yet embarrassed by my hugs and kisses and still craving bedtime stories.  And more days spent enjoying the moment we are in rather than wishing for the clock to speed up.

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Me and first baby.

On Siblings and Fairness, and Cupcakes.

Nothing is fair in love and war…or cupcakes and siblings.  Try as we might, we can’t provide the same childhood experiences to each child we may be blessed with (and I use the term blessed with all due respect owed to whomever and whatever Creator, omniscient being, doctor, partner, scientist, birth mother, surrogate, stork or dumb luck fairy you might believe it is owed).  I remember reading an article once about how these two kids who grew up with the same parents, in the same house, had drastically different recollections of certain of childhood events.  I remember thinking, “of course they did!”

We all approach each situation with different eyes and expectations.  We look at the same exact thing and see different things.  Eyewitness accounts vary greatly when people are interviewed after a crime is committed.  One saw a 6 foot ten, pasty twenty-something.  Another saw a red hat on a kid of about 5’ 7”.  Another saw a knife with a black handle and nothing else.  It is it any wonder that kids in the same house, experiencing the same thing recall it differently?  I have a sister.  She and I have not compared notes, but I am as sure as my face is freckled that my sister has a different recollection of our shared childhood on a number of major points. Continue reading