I’m a planner. I always have been, but now that I’m your mom, the tendency has proven even more important. Gone are impromptu beach trips or even trips to the mall. Everything needs some kind of plan in order for it to work, and I’m mostly okay with this. But that also means that the big things are really planned for, especially birthdays. One day, you’ll probably get sick of my lists and how much planning I like to do for our special moments. And then another day, a long time from now, we’ll probably have some big parties to plan together — like your Bat Mitzvah, Sweet 16, and (bring on the tears) maybe even a wedding.
Today, you’re still a baby (I like to tell myself). But every plan, every party, brings us closer to those some days. And it’s killing me, even though I love watching you grow.
About a week ago, someone asked me how old you are and I surprised myself by responding, “She’ll be 2 in the fall.” I typically round down, so even the day before your birthday, you’ll still be “just one” to me. But I can’t deny that in just two months, your dad and I will welcome an onslaught of rambunctious tiny humans and their exhausted parents into our home for a party with games, cake, and music; as soon as I started a Pinterest board and settled on a theme, you started to turn 2 in my head.
And even though I heard the words come out of my mouth by surprise the other day, I’m having a hard time accepting all of this change. I look at you, honey, and you amaze me. Seriously, every single day. Not all day, every day, because you certainly have early onset of the Terrible Twos. And there are days when I want to just put my head in the freezer and cool off — big time — because you know how to drive your mama batty. But you are growing and changing so much, and I am so, so proud.
But even though I look into your inquisitive eyes and answer the questions that you’re starting to communicate to me through broken little strings of words, even though I am amazed and thrilled by your strength and ability to climb onto chairs (and things you shouldn’t be climbing onto, like tables), even though you learn so much each day, I am sad.
Sometimes on those days when you smile and wave as I drop you in the babysitter’s care, I go to my car and cry. Sometimes when I am trying to rock you at night and you reach for your crib, I feel tempted to ignore the request and keep you in my arms even though you’re ready for sleep. Because time is fleeting, baby girl, and it’s running away from us. I remember so well those long and lazy afternoons when you were so tiny, you’d fit into the clothes of the dolls you drag around the house now, by their feet. You would rest on my chest with your little eyelids fluttering against the world, my warmth and voice the most familiar parts of your reality. And I miss my baby. Forgive me, but I do.
Your first birthday was emotional enough — I purposely planned your party for the actual day to prevent myself from ambling around and crying. I needed other people (and cake) to get through it whole. But you were still a baby. One-year-olds are still babies. When I push you around in a cart at the super market, bigger kids often remark on what a cute baby you are. And they’re right. You’re still a baby.
But what they don’t know is, you’re usually the one pointing out other babies to me, a word you can pronounce perfectly, and you even know how to be gentle with people younger than you. Your tender maturity in these moments fills me with pride and crushes me at once. Because I know the truth: You aren’t really a baby anymore, or at least, not fully. And for some reason, when you turn 2, I feel like you won’t be one at all anymore.
All of this is silly. Seriously, sweetie, it’s insane. I have a healthy, happy, beautiful daughter who’s nearly old enough to try more activities and classes. Who will have so many awesome new toys to explore and words to learn. And I swear, not a drop of this sadness has anything to do with the fact that when you’re 2 I’ll be shelling out double whenever we travel anywhere, because the TSA says at that point you deserve a real seat.
It’s just hard to inch farther and farther away from your early days. When you relied on me and loved me like no one ever had before. This is such a big and beautiful world and I know we have years yet to navigate it together at your pace. I have so much to teach you and, dear daughter, I know you’ll teach me a lot, too. You already have.
But don’t get sad if you see me shed a tear or two while we’re blowing out your birthday candles this year. I want your party to be perfect and I know it will be, despite your mother’s mixed emotions. I like to push the anticipation of these feelings away and focus on today, on the exact age and milestones we’re at right now, because I’m having a hard time accepting that soon we’ll be on to the next.
Just know that it isn’t sadness making me cry, really, but the heart-wrenching love of motherhood. A love that at once makes me so excited for your bright, amazing, rich future, and plants an ache in my soul for what I’ll lose when you get there. The pull is too dramatic and all-consuming. I guess this is why we take it a day at a time — and for today, you’re still just 1.