Just a few weeks ago, my daughter and I went to the park which — in and of itself — isn’t groundbreaking. In fact, most days of the week when Mommy is off, and the weather is nice, we head to the park just after sunrise and stay there for hours on end. We share secrets and snacks. I drinks my iced coffee while Peanut sips on ice water, and then we run around. We dig in the dirt and collect sticks. We play with bubbles and, well, I play dinosaur. And then my daughter throws a tantrum because we have to leave.
Because, at some point, we have to go home.
But on this day my daughter decided to hide behind a tree, because we couldn’t leave if I couldn’t see her. We couldn’t leave if I couldn’t find her. (Smart, I know.) So I played along, and her antics actually resulted in a short, fun game of hide and seek.
And that is when I snapped this picture. During our game, I captured all of innocence and unadulterated joy childhood brings. And I continued taking photos until my daughter said “no Mommy. Go away. No more pictures.”
Instantly, I felt a pang of sadness.
I wasn’t bothered by the fact that she asked me (well, told me) to stop snapping photos. I wasn’t upset that she told me to leave. I was hurt by the gravity of the moment, by the story I saw unfolding underneath that tree — and before my very eyes.
Because while looking at her and that tree — that tree which has roots so large they have broken the surface and now grow above the ground — I realized time is fleeting. My baby girl is growing up, and before long she will be climbing that tree. Before long, she will be laughing with her girlfriends beside that tree. Before long, she will be making out with her boyfriend beneath that tree — hidden by the shade or the cover of night. And before long she will stand stoically and tall. She will stand alone. And while I hope she will be as rooted and grounded as this tree, the very thought caught me off guard. The thought of my little girl growing up broke my heart AND caused it to swell because every minute of every day, she is growing.
Change is coming: it is already happening.
In fact, over the last three years, she — and we — have changed so much. And while I want her to grow and thrive, while I want her to be strong and independent, I’m not ready to teach her how to shave. I don’t want to share my shoes or clothes or bathroom products just yet, and I’m not ready for her to ask Daddy for his car keys.
I’m not prepared for the day when she will leave my house as a girl but return as a woman.
I know I have time, trust me I do. But I blinked, and she was born. I blinked, and she was crawling. I blinked, and she was walking. I blinked, and she was running.
She was running away from innocence…and from me.
So today, sweet child, I will let you play a little longer. I will let you laugh a little louder. I will let you run a little faster. I will let you jump a little higher. Because I know you are growing up. I know you are already spreading your wings and taking baby steps toward your first flight. So we will take those steps together — but only after we jump in puddles and dig in the mud.
Only after we share a big bowl of ice cream, topped with M&M’s.
Only after we appreciate the promise and potential of a cardboard box.
Only after we strengthen your core and your roots.