My first baby turned six last week. Wow.
I called her a baby until she turned two, and I stretched "toddler" until four. When she turned five, I convinced myself that she was really just a big toddler, on the edge of becoming a little kid. When she started kindergarten, she was still only five....hardly more than a baby, really. My baby.
But now she's six, and I can no longer put off acknowledging what I know to be true. I can't deny it, even though everything in my aching heart longs to hold onto her babyhood for a few years - or lifetimes - longer.
My little daughter is a child.
These six years have gone by so quickly, and my memories of them are a series of blurs tangled up in my already over-full mind. Why can I no longer smell the clean, hot, soapy scent of my freshly bathed baby girl as I snuggled her up with her last bottle of the night? Why can't my arms remember the weight of her cradled in them, fast asleep? I can't hear her baby giggles and coos, her first words, or recall the feeling of watching her take her first steps, clap her chubby little hands or hold her sausage-arms out in a silent plea for me to hold her.
Those days are gone, as are the days when I taught her to write her name, when she drew me her first picture, when she sang her first song, when she lost her first tooth, when she learned to skip and do puzzles and decorate cookies and ride her bike and braid her hair and read a book by herself.
Time passes so quickly.
As I snuggled my little-but-getting-big baby girl this morning, I was flooded with these emotions, and simply had to pour them out. I wish that I had all the time in the world to savor this sweet child....savor each of my children...and I will never regret giving up these years of my life....my career, extra money, a big house, nice cars, new clothes, fancy vacations, trips to the salon, my hobbies, my freedom, my social life, my very identity outside of being a mommy....to breathe myself and my faith into the very fabric of this child.
At the end of their lives, no one ever says that they wish they'd spent less time with their children when they were young. I've never met a mother who, when her children were grown, wished she could go back and invest more of their childhoods working or building her own career, but I've heard from many who have said just the opposite. This time is so short, they tell me. Slow down. Hold onto them. Invest in them. Enjoy them fully...the years and the children...before they're gone.
Six years has passed in the blink of an eye, and will never be able to be grasped again, no matter how hard I try. I'm so thankful that I'm not looking back on this time with regrets, that I figured this out at the beginning of those six years instead of when it was already too late. The moment that beautiful, squalling baby was first placed on my heaving chest, I heard the voice loud and clear....the squalling voice, yes...but the still, small voice, too, whispering...
"This is what I have for you now. This is what I made you for. You will love her with a love like no other, with the kind of love I have for you. You will breath into her all that you have learned, all that you know, all the beauty that you see. You will sacrifice so much of your life for her, and in doing so, someday, she will be better able to see Me."