During the day, my daughter’s room sits empty. The bedsheets are left in mid story, slumped and tangled and waiting. I fold them gingerly, gently positioning the stuffed animals side by side on the pillow. For hours, they anticipate the arrival of the three-year-old who clutches them when she dreams. Without my child, the bedroom is a shell bare of squirming arms and legs, a mess of blonde curls and a commanding obstinance. And, in some ways, I too am a shell awaiting her return in the evening, when she will swing us around until we are dizzy and full with her whims.
As time ticks on…
The stillness, that heaviness that exists in the midmorning is, I know, a precursor. It’s a whisper in the autumn air of the change that is afoot constantly and silently, preparing me, first, for the longer hours of the school day, and then for what comes after, the outings with friends, sleepovers, summer camp, and the eventual beyond, when my child is grown.
In the meantime, the landscape of the room will be shifting slowly too; the rocking chair that groans in complaint from overuse will be removed, the changing table packed away, unseen and unbothered. The frustrations that blanket me now, the squabbles at bedtime, the cries for mommy and daddy in the twilight, will be forgotten. Years from now, my daughter will no longer sleep in the cocoon we have created for her, one built of brick and wood and more, a love deep and abiding and more permanent than any material I can hold in my hands.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…
That impending tomorrow stays with me sometimes. It is there between bites at dinnertime, when I fire off all the words one can muster in a mouthful, the lessons I hope she will carry with her. It’s in the hint of shampoo that follows her like a shadow after her bath, the sweet scent that rights me and completes me and then leaves me quietly. Then, in the naked air, is the reminder that I can’t keep her, that, in the end, she will belong only to herself.
Guard these memories
So tonight, when she swirls around me in a frenzy of blocks and books, when the dog barks to the rhythm of her drums and her moods, when I am breathless and captivated and exhausted, I will say a silent prayer of gratitude. For this moment, transient as it is, is still beautiful. And while time will press us forward, when my child is grown, the memory of her as a toddler will remain guarded in my soul for all the days of my life.
Listen to these songs that celebrate the experience of parenthood.
Read my blog post on why raising a two-year-old is not so terrible after all.