Birthday bittersweetness

I warned you that I’d be MIA for a few weeks back in mid-September.  And sure enough I have been.  I’ve been recovering from minor surgery.  I’m still not at my best but I am better than I was, so I call that progress.  I have spent many hours with my heating pad.  It’s a new one, so we are becoming quite acquainted.  I’ve been working through all sorts of physical and emotional things for a variety of reasons that still feel a bit too raw to discuss openly just yet.  But the other thing that’s happened in the midst of all of this is my baby girl turning 5.  5!  No other birthday since her first has struck me quite this way.

My daughter at her first birthday party way back in 2010.

When her first birthday rolled around, I knew that I was losing my baby.  In fact the weekly e-mails I got about parenting switched immediately from referring to “your baby” to “your toddler.”  I cried some more.  I wasn’t ready to let go of my baby being a baby.  Looking back on that now, I smile.  And when my son turned 1, I didn’t shed a tear, because I knew the secret: toddlers are way more fun than babies.  You still get the baby snuggliness and cuteness but you also get to see their personality come through even more.  You get to hear more of their thoughts as they start verbalizing things.  You get to really play with them.  It gets good.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think toddlerhood is bliss.  I’d say it’s about 60 percent fun and 40 percent frustration, but the fun is FUN.  The good is so very good.  I didn’t know all of that, though, when my daughter turned 1.  I didn’t know how good it was going to get.  Something happens between the first and second birthday that your child really becomes his or her own person and it’s awesome.

My daughter at her 5th birthday party just over a week ago.

But, 5 has caught me off guard.  It signifies that kindergarten is soon on its way (almost a year away, but I know it’s coming!).  After this year, she will no longer be able to hold up fingers on only one hand to show her age.  My little girl is growing into a big girl. She’s getting more mature.  She’s getting more independent and I don’t know if I am ready for that.  While she spends three hours, four days a week in PreK now, I know that next year she’ll start school and I’ll lose my days with her.  Never again will we be consistently, happily home together most of the time she’s awake.  And that makes me sad.  That makes me sad even on days when I’d give my left arm to remember what it feels like to do something just for me and get a break.  I am not ready for my little girl to grow up.

At the same time, I cannot stop it.  I’m sure I have lamented about this before on my blog.  It’s not new information and it most certainly isn’t unique to me. Generations of moms before me have dealt with the same feelings.  I almost feel like I need to apologize to my own parents for growing up, but at the same time if I hadn’t grown up, they wouldn’t have had these beautiful grandbabies.  It’s how life is meant to be lived.  It’s the cycle that has been continuing from the very beginning of time.

Maybe in 3-1/2 years when my son turns 5, I won’t feel it quite as keenly.  Maybe I’ll approach his 5th birthday as I did his 1st, knowing that what is to come is so very good.  For now, my daughter has a week out of school on fall break.  I won’t say that every waking moment I’ll be by her side, playing and having fun.  In fact, as I type this I’m in another room from her while she’s watching a show on Netflix as her baby brother naps in his room.  But, I will have fun with her.  I will laugh with her.  I will enjoy her for who she is today as a 5-year-old because I have a very good feeling that before I know it, she’ll be a 15-year-old and I’ll be yet again asking myself where the time has gone.

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