I used to change her diapers, and then one day, she was potty trained.
I used to feed her a bottle each night before bed, and now she fills her own glass of water to place on her nightstand each evening.
I used to sing to her, and the sound of my voice would lull her to sleep. My “singing voice” is now “funny” and provides laughter and something to poke fun at. “Momma! You’re singing the wrong words!” she says.
Each morning, I’d look forward to trying to squish her chunky baby arms and legs into onesies and adorable baby clothing. She now demands to pick out her outfit independently, and she gets dressed each morning on her own—without me.
I used to pack her lunch each morning, and then the two of us would meet in the bathroom to select a hair style for the day. I’d braid, pony-tail, comb, and spray copious amounts of detailing spray. We’d regale in how long her hair was growing, chat about what lay ahead that day at school. She now does her own hair each morning.
Prior to leaving for school each day, I’d tie her shoes and she’d give me the “sad lip” indicating that she didn’t want to spend the day without me. Now, I hear a flutter of footsteps and an enthusiastic “Byeeee Mom! I love youuu!” as the front door slams behind her, and I am left alone in a silent house that was buzzing with energy seconds earlier.
I always run to the door and ask her to come back to give me a kiss.
I am her mom.
She squeezes me tightly as I get down on my knees to give her a hug. She takes her hands, still innocently soft and small, and squeezes my cheeks together, presses her nose firmly against mine, and says “I love your squishy face!” (Something I’ve said to her since the day she was born, and something she now says to me) as she plants a kiss on my face.
I hear her chatter all the way out the driveway until I hear her voice no more. Some mornings, I stand at the door, alone, in the quiet, and wonder how it really did go just as fast as everyone told me it would.
Slowly, many of my “mom duties” that once felt like work have been stripped from me, stripped from me because she is getting older, because through me, she has learned. And because of that, she has gained her own independence.
This morning when she’d finished her hair on her own for the fourth morning in a row, without asking for help, a little part of my heart broke. She isn’t my little baby anymore. She doesn’t need me like she once did.
I don’t know when that happened.
I do know that I just recently noticed it.
The small tasks that once seemed like chores, I am sad I’m no longer asked to help with.
She will be 8 in exactly two weeks.
I don’t know how that happened, either.
Last night, I went to check on her before bed. I saw the (almost) 8-year-old sleeping innocently. I knelt down beside her and smelled her scent—the unique scent that all our children have, the one we could distinguish from any other person on the planet. She had her puppy that she received on her 1st birthday, the one she doesn’t sleep a night without, protectively tucked under her arm, and for a moment, I saw my baby again.
Everything looked so small: her nose, her hands, her little lips and eyebrows. I traced her face in my mind and begged God to never let me forget that moment.
It’s as though I woke up one day and she was a “big kid.” If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about— that moment when you realize your baby is now a toddler, your toddler is now a little kid, and your little kid is now a big kid. Sadly, I know this progression continues—preteen, teen, adult. It’s a cycle of progression, the most bittersweet of them all.
I imagine we all have a certain moment of realization that takes us to this new plateau of parenting—the one when we realize we’ve raised children who can manage some tasks on their own. It’s the moment we see that we’ve instilled some independence in them.
I had no idea how badly that day would hurt. So, as I sat next to her while she slept and I saw my baby—my almost 8-year-old baby—I snapped a photo in the room dimly lit by one of the last night-lights that still remains, and I shed a few tears.
She will always be my baby, and as joyful as it is to see her grow, each year we step further away from her birth year, a large part of me feels happy and thankful that I’ve helped raise such a kind, sweet and smart young girl. However, a part of my heart aches as time marches on and my baby becomes older, wiser, independent and less in need of her “momma,” less in need of me.