Our little girl woke up this morning with a wide grin, ready to embrace her double-digit birthday with open arms. She proudly flashed the crisp $20.00 bill left under her pillow by the tooth fairy, informing me with unrestrained glee, that “she usually gets $5.00” and “she must have left me extra because she knew it was my birthday!” She then proceeded to get dressed in her school uniform, humming loudly all the while and taking frequent breaks to gush over Lola who watched her with equally unrestrained adoration.
Her mood might have been elated but mine felt far more subdued. This birthday feels different. I do not feel ready to embrace the double digits, the doorway to all thing’s “tween”. I am not ready for her to begin a new journey that may have her leaving behind the childish trappings of her youth. I ache with the bittersweet notions of those coming losses, those casualties of her growing up…not far off now it seems to me as she marks this milestone. After depositing her, and her birthday donuts, at the classroom door this morning, I found myself fighting back tears on the way back to my car. As much as I want to share in her enthusiasm, I feel so much like a mother on the brink of something I am not prepared for and it has left me feeling uncharacteristically unmoored.
These days I am struck by all the small things that mark her changing. While she still prefers to clamber into our bed at night, she has begun going to sleep in her own room. She has taken to wearing a sleep mask she got for Christmas. It has a wild, purple zebra pattern that looks at odds with her little girl sleep smile. I check on her to find that, even in sleep, she has begun to straddle some invisible line between the child and the young girl. One of her arms is wrapped tightly around her stuffed horse Roo and the other is draped loosely around her dog Lola and that flashy eye mask is firmly in place.
This week she asked me to paint her nails. She has managed to grow them at last, in spite of barn chores and piano lessons. The nail polish I had at hand was a perhaps a shade too dark for her, but she still brandished them proudly. As far as I can tell, they are her only real vanity in the otherwise athletic and unadorned style that she’s adopted as her own.
Last night at the barn she went about her chores as usual, taking a break when a song came on she liked to “dance with Roo”. I had to laugh at her antics, her silly made-up moves that garnered only the most casual glances from her munching horse. Roo is growing used to his child, the one who covers his soft nose with constant kisses and prattles about his stall, talking about her day even though he is far more interested in his hay. Still, I see him turn to watch her with his large brown eyes, his curiosity as clearly evident as his affection for her. At times he seems to have this expression that says, “yup, that’s my kid…that weird, wonderful, chatty little being right there”, and I find myself in a complete and kindred agreement with our gentle gelding.
Watching her this morning, I found myself thinking, “Yup, that’s my child…that’s my silly, kind, smart, crazy, loveable, “on the verge of something wonderful” …little being right there.”
I don’t know how much longer she will believe in the tooth fairy. I don’t know when she will retire her stuffed animals or when I will stop finding her wrapped around me like a koala in the night. I do not know how much longer she will break into those random fits of wild dancing. For now, I celebrate those things and I feverishly document them…leave my testimonies in electronic ink so I will have them always. While I might not be 100% ready for double digits, I know I am more than grateful, more than blessed for the opportunity to be part of it all.