Don’t blink, or you’ll miss something important

Two nights ago I handed the baby to my husband and settled in to put Lyra to bed. Her bedtime routine hasn’t changed much since we started doing it — two stories, two songs, a couple of minutes just sitting with her or lying next to her before saying good night and leaving the room. Since we brought Pandra home it’s mostly been Adam doing bedtime stuff with Lyra, since the baby is often cranky right around that time of night. Lyra doesn’t mind, and because she spends so much time with me during the day I think she actually prefers it to some extent — she just loves storytime with her daddy.

But Pandra was in a reasonably good mood, so she got to hang out with her daddy while I read stories and sang songs for her big sister.

Somehow in the past month and a half I’ve completely missed out on how big a big sister she’s become.

I don’t know when she got so tall…

We sat down and read the books, then turned off the lights and I sang her two songs. There used to be a variety of songs to choose from, but these days every night she wants to hear only the same two songs: The Rainbow Connection and Inchworm. I sang them and then lay down to cuddle with her for a couple of minutes. When I sat up to leave, I asked her for a hug and she climbed into my lap. That’s when it hit me.

I don’t know when it happened, but the tiny waif of a child who fit snugly on my lap and could curl up into a ball in my arms has turned into a long-limbed, gangly, almost awkward little girl-creature. It is awesome and adorable and I love that she’s growing up, but in that moment of realization, that the last physical traces of my baby girl had disappeared in what felt like the blink of an eye, hit me all at once. I wrapped my arms around her and held her in my lap where she didn’t fit the same as she used to, and I had to struggle not to start crying in front of her. Tears were running down my cheeks in the dark, but I didn’t let her know it, because there was no way I could explain to her why her mommy was crying. Even now writing this down I’m crying… fortunately she’s fast asleep on the couch next to me, because I still can’t find the right words to tell her why I’m sad.

The thing is, I’m not really sad. I’m excited to see her grow, I love who she is now and who she’s becoming every day, and I’m infinitely proud of all sorts of things she does and says and learns. I wouldn’t turn back time to recover the baby version of her — or the toddler version of her — if given the opportunity. The tears aren’t tears of joy though… they’re as unexpected as the sudden realization that she has changed so much without my noticing until that moment. I miss the big leaps because I see all the tiny steps, so when I have a moment like that one, when I’m holding her and those emotions are hitting me like a tonne of bricks, it’s jarring. The only human way I could possibly react was to cry.

And otherwise, just reassure myself that I am paying attention, and I need to keep doing so. I don’t want to miss a thing.