Last night, I lay in bed with my 5-year old, waiting for her to fall asleep.
“Hey,” I whispered, “Are you awake?”
“No,” she whispered back.
I smiled to myself. I had wanted to chat. But I knew she needed her sleep, so I kept quiet.
Instead, I stared at her eyelashes in the dark and started thinking. Thinking about how amazing she was. How much she had changed and learned in her 5 years in this world. How well she handled having two little sisters join her family. How hard the transition to kindergarten has been for her and her sensitive little personality.
Change is hard for her. When things are different, she gets easily upset. She regresses a little. She doesn’t seem so grown up anymore. Every time we overcome one little hurdle at school (‘Mommy – why is show & share different at big school? Why aren’t I allowed to keep my toy behind my back after I’m done showing it?’) another one seems to come up.
But then there are moments like earlier that day. When her eyes got wide as she told me excitedly about the dinosaurs they learned about today. And when she watched me making popcorn… her belly laugh at the sight of the kernel actually turning into a piece of popcorn.
“Did you see that??” she laughs. “How awesome!”
My grown up little baby girl. She straddles the line between becoming a kid and still needing her Mommy and Daddy for almost everything.
She wants to take the long way to school – stopping to pick up sticks and asking astonishingly smart and profound questions about the stream we pass. But then we get to school, and she also wants me to come into her class and stay with her just because she’s not ready to go in when the bell rings. She wants to learn to print all sorts of new words. But even when she needs help, she wants to do it all on her own, because she’s still uncomfortable with her teachers. She wants to bring a stuffy to hold onto during quiet time. But she also wants to put it away when she’s good and ready – not when she’s told to.
After one day when she was having particularly rough time at school (and I felt like a failure), I updated my Facebook status to “How do you solve a problem like my daughter?” It was meant as a joke – but a friend left this comment:
“How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?”
And I had a moment of clarity. The answer is – you don’t.
My sweet little girl is the first kid, so she has to be the “tester” – she needs to break new ground and figure this brand new world out – paving the way for her two younger sisters.
I realized that she wants to do it her own way - and that's okay.
I realized that every time I lose my grown up girl for a little bit, I need to remind myself that I’ve got a cloud on my hands.
And I realized that I can’t pin her down. Nor should I want to.
I look at her quiet face and smile to myself one more time before leaving her room.
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