We are quickly creeping up on Penelope’s third birthday in April, and, naturally, the baby parts of her have been slowly fading away. Suddenly, it seems, I am left with a little girl where my toddling baby just was.
She pushes her own little cart around the grocery store and unloads the groceries at checkout. She walks beside me on the sidewalk, chatting away like a little friend. She dresses herself. She drinks from a glass, feeds herself soup, can make it through a whole meal with little help at all from me. She speaks in paragraphs, in monologues, in elaborate stories, in all-day-long questions – from the minute she opens her eyes, her voice is the soundtrack of my life.
Those flour handprints on the counter are the stuff my Mama dreams are made of.
My favorite motherhood advice/reminder/cliche is, “everything is just a phase.” It is what I chant silently to myself during the hard moments – teething, sleepless nights, separation anxiety, two-year-old melodrama – hold on, Mama, this will be over before you know it. But, even more so, it is the whisper in the back of my mind during the perfect moments – backyard picnics, full force hugs and whispered I love yous, cookie-baking marathons, book-reading afternoons under a blanket on the couch – hold on, Mama, this too will be over before you know it.
And it has never felt truer to me than these last few month. Not only is she tiptoeing up to three, Penelope is becoming a big sister in May. She is so excited about “our baby” and and her excitement is only adding to my own about our second daughter. But, it’s also making me hold on tight. Even tighter than normal. I know this new baby will come and bring with her all the joy and love and how-was-she-ever-not-here we got from her big sister, but I also know that my long and simple days with Penelope as my only companion are drawing to a close.
More than ever, I am reminded what a privilege it is to be her Mama. To take her to the grocery store. To walk beside her on the sidewalk. To share my meals and my time with her. To be the eager ear to her stories and questions. To be her whole world. To be right here. Even on the hardest days, the days I countdown to bedtime, the days I wish for a split second of quiet with no one touching me, the days we both lose our patience, the days where I wonder if my life is too ordinary, I know. These are the days, and they will pass in a blink.
I go in to check on her one last time before I close my eyes, and, as I smooth her wild curls from her forehead and straighten her covers, all I can think is, my God, how in this world did one person get lucky enough to be her Mama. And how is that person me.