Sunday, June 28, 2009

From Baby to Little Girl, Too Fast

This morning, the little girl who pitter-pattered out of her room -- shutting her door firmly behind her first, which she does every morning, as if to announce that she is DONE SLEEPING -- seemed months older than the girl-baby who fell asleep in my arms to my out-of-tune lullabies last night. "Mommy, do you want to play a game with me?" she asked, her eyebrows raised. I savored my awe at her complete sentence for a moment before nodding. "Okay," she said, nodding and moving toward the game shelf, "we play a game together, with Bunny. Bunny, you sit on Mommy's lap, okay?"

TK settled Bunny on my lap and then draped her pink blanket over both of us before she pitter-pattered over to get the matching game she loves to play. I felt young and teary, like TK was taking care of ME: how is she growing up this fast? When she throws herself on the floor because she wants gum before dinner, I long for her to grow older. . .but most of the time, I want to hold her close in her sweet babyhood; I inhale the lemongrass scent of her hair; I cuddle those sweetly pudgy legs and arms; I kiss her soft cheek. Motherhood must be about this pull and push, too: grow up -- no, stay little -- be a big girl! -- no, cuddle in my arms and be my baby.

The days move too fast. (Or it's raining and she's woken early from her nap, and we've already played with play-do and painted and made cookies, and time tick-tocks at an imperceptible pace).

Mostly, I'm astonished by the little PERSON she's becoming -- by the fact that it was a mere ten months ago that she babbled in Amharic and Hadiya baby syllables, that she feared the pool and dogs and most strangers, that she was so much more a baby. The other day, as she rode high on my shoulders to her preschool/daycare, I asked, "What are you going to do at school today?" and she responded, "Play!" then paused and added, "But I'll miss you, Mommy." Add that to the way she knelt importantly on a chair next to Ali's the other morning, pretending to type away on her own computer. "What are you doing?" I asked her, smiling. "Working, like Aye-Ay," she said, frowning at the computer screen and its burgeoning number of the letter "O".

Add that to our bedtime talks, when we list what we loved about the day and -- increasingly -- what we're thinking about. Seriously. She told me one night last week about how worried she was about the injured eagle up at the tram on Mt. Roberts (which the Juneau Raptor Center displays for visitors' education). "Somebody shot the eagle's eye," TK said sadly into her pillow, "and he can't see." I reassured her and reminded her that the eagle is loved now, and that he has a good home with the Juneau Raptor Center. But TK sighed. "He doesn't fly now," she reminded me. "So sad, Mommy."

I love the person TK is becoming. I love her empathy -- for eagles, for her family (she gives kisses to anyone who falls down or seems sad), for flowers. I love her silliness, and I love her seriousness (though I fear it, too -- as a sometimes too-serious person, I know the pitfalls of forgetting to be silly enough in this world). Some days, I'm ready for her to grow up faster, to move beyond toddlerhood. At her little friend Meadow's birthday party the other day, she dissolved into tears when she realized the present we had brought was JUST for Meadow, and today I carried her away from an outdoor carnival while she cried and shouted, "I'm NOT tired! I'm NOT tired!" But most days, I want to cling to every minute. I want to slow the clocks. I want to gather Mitike into my arms and memorize every syllable and every silly face. Writing here is not enough. I can't keep up with how much I want to record -- with how much I want to remember.

I Need My Mommy

ME: "Why are you sad, TK?"

TK: "I need my Mommy."

ME: "I'm right here!"

TK: "Okay, Mommy. I love you. You stay with TK?"

ME: "Of course. Remember, I love you more than the whale --"

TK: "-- loves his spout, and the raven loves his treasure --" [quoting from the book "Mama Do You Love Me?"]

ME: "-- and the dog loves his tail --"

TK: "-- and TK loves her Mommy!"