When your children are little, those whose children have grown are fond of telling you that these are the best days of your life and to enjoy them, because they go so fast. You are aware that they are correct, but as the old adage goes (and is so often quoted by those same well-meaning strangers in the grocery store as your four year old throws a tantrum because he wanted to get Sponge Bob mac & cheese and you opted for the 3/$1 store brand with plain noodles), "The days are long, but the years are short."
As a mom to three children under five who also has a full-time career, I feel as if I spend most of my time just barely keeping up. It isn't that I don't enjoy these moments; I do. I can feel them slipping through my fingers at a pace that increases by the day and I know that soon these days will be in the past, a distant, sleep-deprived memory. Try as I might to hold on to the little things that make each day count, I find myself slipping into a groove, and days go by without me really getting to stop and take note of the passage of time.
Then there are days like today. My sweetest little Project As If, Emma Grace, turns three years old today. When I woke up this morning, the realization that three whole years have passed since she was placed in my arms made me stop and think about what that truly means. In what has seemingly been the blink of an eye, she has gone from that tiny, helpless newborn to a walking, talking, full of spirit pre-schooler. She is so vibrant, my little girl, so happy, so playful, so funny, so engaging, so. . . perfect.
Her sense of humor and comedic timing is beyond her years. She has these faces she makes, she mimics people, she has this deep belly laugh that you can't help but join in with. She is constantly entertaining us. She is also so incredibly sweet and compassionate. She is such a good and tender big sister to Andrew, sharing toys and food with him whenever possible. She loves it when I put him in her crib in the morning or after nap. She will draw him close, sing to him, cuddle him, hand him one of her beloved stuffy.
Speaking of the stuffies. . . oh, my land. She has never met a stuffy that she didn't want to take home with her. We have hundreds already. And she has about a half dozen at each time that she has to take everywhere with her. This group rotates, although she always has to have her original stuffy, Ellie (a pink and green elephant blanket she has had since she was six months old) as part of the crowd. Other than that, you can usually find her toting some sort of pony, kitty, and, lately, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (yep, my sweet precious baby loves her some "gingas").
She loves to play veterinarian and you walk into her room to find a makeshift animal hospital. Tiny Alvin and his chipmunk buddies wrapped lovingly in blankets as Dr. Emma makes her rounds, giving them "shots" and taking their temperatures. She will look very seriously at me and say, "Mommy, these stuffies are very sick. I need to take very good care of them."
She calls with "Brova" and, even though they fight a lot, they are also often best friends, united against the world. Often, when they are arguing over a toy, I will step in on her behalf, and she will then turn around and defend Will, even though he was usually the aggressor. When he gets hurt, she is the first to come running with a hug and kiss.
From day one, Emma has been the definition of easy. Had she been my only child, I would have been an insufferable mom, who thought she had it all figured out. She is pure sunshine and brings such joy to our lives. I truly cannot imagine my world without Emma in it.
And yet, on days like today, celebrating her third year in our family, it makes me realize how truly quickly it has all gone and continues to go. I am reminded that I do not have forever with her like this, where I am her world and she is mine. I have great hopes for our future, that we will have a good relationship, that we will always have this ease between us. I am also realistic enough to know that if I do a good job parenting her, eventually she will not need me, and I will shrink from being the center of her life to a marginal bit player.
This is a bit melancholy of a birthday entry, and I don't mean it to be that way, truly. I am so happy to be Emma's mommy that it makes my heart feel as if it might burst. I am so happy to dedicate a day to celebrating her amazingly little self. My children's birthdays have always induced this feeling in me, this realization that they are growing up and away, and that I will never have these moments back. While I am glad to see them growing, thriving, and maturing into amazing little people, there is a tiny (admittedly selfish) part of me that wishes I could just have them like this, here with me, forever.
Then, as another day draws to a close, I have to admit that I am also excited to see who she continues to grow into. She is such a spectacular and amazing person now, I can't even begin to imagine the force she will continue to be as she grows older. It will certainly be an amazing adventure.