My daughter is six now. Not a baby anymore; not a toddler. Too tall to be mistaken for a preschooler.
She’s a bona fide big kid — with her wild, flowing hair, long legs, and strong body that races across the playground, turns a perfect cartwheel, and swings from the monkey bars over and over again, advancing rung by rung by rung.
It astonishes me how tall and smart and swift she’s become.
Sometimes, when she sleeps at night, the truth of her age drops away for a bit. In sleep, the line of her jaw softens and her cheek rounds, and once again I can see her as my baby. As she dreams, I can sweep the hair back from the nape of her neck and run my thumb over her strawberry birthmark, remembering the first time I saw it, on the night she was born.
She was perfectly beautiful then.
She is perfectly beautiful now.
Now she can read a book, ride a bike, share a secret with her very best friend. Only that tiny trace of babyhood remains.
It has gone so quickly; it is going so quickly. And I am achingly aware of just how fast the days slip by, like water through my hands — racing, racing, racing toward the day my girl will be all grown up. Because more and more each day, as I look at her lovely familiar features, I can see the person she will become. The woman she will become.
She turns her head just so while drawing a picture, and I know how her face will look when she is 12 and headed off to a slumber party with her friends.
She gestures with her hands as she tells me a story about the fairy garden she wants to build, and I know how those hands will look grasping a steering wheel when she is 16 and driving a car.
She fixes me with her sharp, blue-eyed gaze as I approach her kindergarten classroom at the end of the school day, and I know how her eyes will look when she is 18 and packing her things to leave for college.
She twirls in her favorite dress, spinning to make the skirt flare out, and I know how she will appear dressed for work and walking to her office. I see how she will carry herself: her posture, her bearing; how her feet will look in high heels.
I see her going about her six-year-old day and I see — with near-perfect clarity — the future version in my mind: She will read a novel, go for a run, feed her dog, sip a cup of coffee.
She will be perfectly beautiful then.
I will love her so much, the grown-up version of her. And I will miss the girl. I will miss the girl down to my very bones.
So until then, I will watch and marvel and drink in these days of girlhood. I will savor this time when she laughs with her whole body, and becomes fierce with anger over a perceived injustice, and is completely unafraid of a new adventure. I will tuck her into bed each night and kiss her soft cheeks and feel deeply and profoundly grateful that the universe sent her to me.
Because I know the day is coming when she will be grown. When she will fly away from me. When she will still be mine, but no longer really mine.
She is six now.
But not for very long.