I’m a sucker for milestones. The last day of preschool, the first day of kindergarten, graduations of any sort, weddings, silver and gold anniversaries. Play me the first few bars of the graduation march and I’m instantly choked up. Show me a video of a father-daughter dance at a wedding and my mascara is dripping all over my face. But nothing – nothing – gets me more than birthdays that end in zero.
My daughter is ten today. Ten. It’s a number that’s hard for me to wrap my head around when used in reference to my first-born. Ten years ago she was brand new, and I was a mother for the very first time. Ten years from now, she’ll be twenty, and I’ll be an empty-nester with two kids in college (I’m knocking wood as I write that. With high levels of reflection comes high levels of superstition, at least for me). It’s gone so fast, but sometimes, it seems so long ago. I look at babies and toddlers now, and I hardly even remember my kids being that young.
And yet, when I sit in my daughter’s room – filled now with a desk and a bookshelf, decorated with peace-sign wall stickers, trophies from the sports she’s played, and pictures of her friends – I can still see the rocking chair in the corner where I nursed her at all hours of the night. I can still see the crib where she slept like a little doll, and the closet filled with the tiny dresses that I couldn’t resist buying, even though I knew she would never wear them. And if I close my eyes and inhale really deeply, I can still smell that perfect baby smell (mingled, however, with the faint odor of dirty diapers emanating from the Diaper Genie). But then I open my eyes again, and this big girl decked out in skinny jeans is sitting in front of me, with feathers in her hair and Converse high tops on her feet, the last remnants of her baby face nearly gone.
If these last ten years have gone in a blink of an eye, I can’t even imagine how quickly the next ten will go. The thought of my daughter going off to college and living her own life is a tough one to swallow. Sometimes, it feels like being a parent is a lot like training a puppy that’s going to become a seeing-eye dog. You take care of him, you love him, you teach him everything you think he’ll need, but in the back of your mind you know – you always know – that someday your time with him will be up. Someday, that little puppy will be ready, and when he is, you’ll send him off into the world to go live with someone else, and do the job that you taught him to do. Letting go, they call it. Frankly, I think that letting go sucks.
Tonight, my husband and I will sit down, like we do every year, and watch the video from the day my daughter was born. We’ll marvel at how tiny she was, at how young we looked, and at how much has happened in the ten years since we’ve become parents. And we’ll remind each other to enjoy every day, because we both know that this sweet, sweet time won’t last forever.