For the first hour of this new year I held my youngest child in my arms while she tried desperately to sleep despite the coughing fits that ravaged her two year old body. Unlike many of my friends this past year, I was not worried for her health. There was no wheezing, no struggle for breath. I held her hoping to provide some comfort rather than to dispel my own fears. We have been lucky, so lucky, but I know that luck can change, so I held my baby tight while I patted her back gently. I breathed in the smell of her baby shampoo and kissed her dark curls. I reveled in the weight of her tired head on my chest, the warmth of her body next to mine. I tried to remember the last time I held her in my arms like that while she slept. I thought back to other sleepless nights, when I woke up to cries of hunger instead of coughs, dragging my body out of bed to feed her again and again. How it felt like years since I’d had a good night’s sleep. Back then I would have given anything to sleep through the night just once.
How quickly those nights disappear.
As we celebrate the beginning of a new year, we also say goodbye to the old. I remember anticipating my first child’s first tooth, her first word, her first steps. Now she is writing words, attempting cartwheels, looking forward to losing her first tooth. Soon these firsts, too, will be in the past, and she will be moving on to other new feats. Watching her learn and grow is so wonderful, so amazing. Each time we do something together she surprises me with a new skill, a new word, a new understanding. But it is all happening so quickly, sometimes I feel like I can’t keep up. I want to tell her to wait, I just got used to her being able to open the fridge and now she can turn on the taps. But she has already moved on and is reaching for the light switch that used to be too high. It’s happening too fast.
I am not ready.
I know that our job as parents is to prepare them for the world, to slowly let them go so that one day they can be completely self-sufficient. And most of the time I think I can do it; I understand the importance of the end goal and so I stand back where once I would have offered my hand. I hold my arms out, just in case, and I watch them grow. I watch them gain confidence, and ability, and independence. And though I watch with pride, it is a tearful pride, as I watch them get further and further away from the soft, sweet smelling babies I once held in my arms in the middle of the night.
I am not ready.