You see, from the moment she was born I loved her. I loved holding her and staring at her and knowing she was ours. I cuddled her and played with her and took comfort in the fact that she and I were a team. Mother and baby. She needed nothing more than my love and attention. We played blocks on the floor and read countless books and snuggled under the fluffy brown blanket with her milk and my coffee and watched Little Bear every afternoon.
When the big kids went outside on warm spring days, she stayed with me and watched from the window, giggling and waving at her brother and sisters. When Daddy took the big kids to the movies, she stayed home with me. I gave her bubble baths and dressed her in warm jammies and rocked her to sleep in the quiet of the evening.
When the long days of summer arrived, and Daddy took the older kids to the pool late at night, she and I stayed behind and sat on the porch swing and looked at the stars. When we went to the park and Daddy and the big kids went on the scary roller coasters, she sat in her pink stroller while I pushed her around looking at all the people.
And she was happy. But days pass quickly. And children get older. Suddenly, that little baby that I carried so lovingly into the house wrapped in a baby blanket is now a preschooler with long brown curly hair and a smile that lights up our lives. She loves to dance and sing and is very fond of the color pink. But that is not all that is different. My baby is a child now. I no longer have three kids and a baby. I have four children.
Yes, the moment arrived...ever so quietly. It snuck up on me, even though this is the fourth time it has happened and I should have been expecting it. My little girl wants and needs to break away. She no longer stays inside with me on warm spring days. She puts on her shoes and runs outside with the other kids. She rides her big wheel around the driveway as fast as they do. When she comes in, she tells me all about it. And she is happy.
When Daddy takes the kids to the movies now, my Flynn goes along. She gets water and popcorn and sits in her seat and swings her legs, because of course they are too short to reach the ground. When she comes home, she tells me all about it. And she is happy.
This summer, when the nights are warm and long, she and I will go to the pool with Daddy and the big kids. She will sit on my lap while I put on her floaties and then she will jump right in. When we go to the park, she will walk along beside me, holding my hand, and then run off with Daddy and the big kids to hop on all the rides. And she will be happy.
I will be happy too. I will be happy for her. Because even though I will miss that little baby and the precious, happy moments we shared together, I cannot keep her from what she is supposed to do. She is supposed to grow and change and learn and play. She is supposed to become the child and young person and woman that God made her to be. I am here to guide her and love her and teach her. And ultimately, let her go.
This is the first of many times I need to let her go. Today, when she goes, it is just outside. Someday, she will go away to college. Or to a job. And one day, to a home of her own. All of my sweet children will. That is perhaps the hardest part of parenting for me. Letting my babies go. Realizing that one day, the child that my husband I dreamed of and waited for and loved and nurtured will leave and begin anew. Just as we did. And just as a child should.
I hope and pray when that day comes, I am ready. Ready to let each of my babies go. For now, I will take comfort in the time we spend together, and in the memories I tuck deep inside my heart. For someday, that will be all I have. That...and a whole lot of grandchildren, I hope. : )
My favorite picture of Steve and Flynn...the day we brought her home.
First trip to the beach. : )
Her love of Cinderella goes way back.
Me and my girl.