It’s so rare that you sit still long enough for me to get a long look at you, little daughter of mine – not quite a child, yet no longer a baby. I know this moment is fleeting, just a sliver of a day in which neither of us stop moving for very long, certainly not long enough to wholly acknowledge the transformations occurring as you grow, moment-by-moment, into a little girl.
I know that your busy toddler duties will soon call you away from your stepstool throne and off to some important work: flinging alphabet refrigerator magnets around the kitchen, pointing to horses in your favorite picture book, twirling determinedly like a slow-motion helicopter as your older sister dances circles around you when we turn up the radio for a living-room dance party.
But for now you sit here before me, mostly still, and for a brief time I sense the transience of your present being. Remnants of your baby self still cling to you, like the scent of banana bread that lingers in our kitchen hours after we pull the loaf from the oven. That tummy, a squishy balloon peeking out proudly from beneath the hem of a too-small shirt. Those hands, capable now of games of pat-a-cake, little moon cakes themselves attached to delicate digits as scrumptious as espresso-soaked ladyfingers. Clear ivory skin splashed with pink brushstrokes at your cheeks, which are still full and round and framed by a halo of disheveled cornsilk hair.
And, yet, these vestiges of babyhood are quickly fading as you grow from a cherub into a child. That balloon tummy is deflating slowly as you grow taller. Those hands, forever groping ahead to discover new corners of your outwardly exploding world, are becoming scratched and nicked on the way. Those fingers are growing more dexterous each time they grasp a new handhold, little anchors pulling you forward on this path towards personhood. That face is already illustrating the intricacies of full-grown emotions like anticipation, disappointment, joy and sorrow, with the mere crinkle of those wide blue eyes or the downward arc of those licorice vine lips.
A part of me wants to wrap you up, swaddle you in receiving blankets like a mummy, preserve you as a baby for just a little while longer. Babyhood is such an enchanting time, yet we wish it away so readily, so expectant for the easier times: when they dress themselves and poop on a toilet and don’t dump their oatmeal, smiling, onto the floor.
Yet time marches forward, unconcerned with my sentimental longing to keep my second child from growing too quickly. She will grow out of that baby cocoon before my eyes, a curl of tightly wrapped green one day unraveling into a multicolored butterfly the next.
I cannot slow or steer time’s indifferent advance, which works to untie those cozy bonds of babyhood and release this person fully into the world. I can only cling to these moments when they come, these moments when you sit (almost) still on a stepstool, long enough for me to see you for who you really are, and savor your baby essence for just a little while longer.