I feel bewildered, like the past two years just disappeared. I can almost still feel the pang of the contractions that brought you here, the lingering aches of that first post-birth walk, and the heavy slosh of my deflated stomach. But of course, I am not there anymore, in that fresh and tender time when I first met you, when I first kissed your silky skin. We are here, staring down the calendar of your second birthday. And honestly?
I’m kind of heartbroken.
On the one hand, I know I should be grateful. There are mothers out there who have loved and lost. But on the other, I just want to freeze time, to stop you at this age between baby and child. Because two? Two is that tender age, isn’t it? Two is still my baby, still rocking to sleep, still cuddling in my arms. But two is also steps away from independence and temper tantrums.
Two is a favorite blanket and the insistence on “more!” of your bedtime story. Two is when I develop an odd fascination on your feet, because strangely enough, they seem to represent every part of your babyhood and future, all at once. Two is the time when those little baby feet, the ones I have kissed and pretend-sniffed countless times over the past 24 months, start to look like little girl feet.
Two is marveling at your expanding vocabulary and my astonishment, as though I didn’t realize you would grow up. I may have done this before, but for some reason, I didn’t expect it from you. You, I thought, would always be my baby.
Part of me sees regret when I look into your baby face and press the coolness of your cheek against mine. Because, the truth is, seeing you approach this milestone makes me realize how wrong I had things before. How much I treated your older sisters like they had “grown up” at the same age. How I grew frustrated when potty-training your big sister, at the same age you are now.
I look back now and I want to weep. How could I have not realized how little two is? How could I have treated two as anything but that tender age between baby and child? How could I have not treasured every last moment of it?
Two is learning to let you go, while never wanting you to leave my arms.
Two is your arms reaching up to mine, and the surprising weight as I strain to pick you up.
Two is watching that spark in your eyes, the seeds of learning about the world around you planted.
Two is laughing as you toddle behind your sisters, giggling even when you don’t understand what they are laughing about. Two is donning a tiara and a sparkly skirt, twirling around while I wonder if we’ve actually created a monster. Maybe I should be dressing you like a president instead of a princess?
Two is your little excitement, your fat feet trying to jump off the ground, while all of your efforts resulting in a whole inch of air. Two is belly laughs, two is your unexpected kisses, and two is falling asleep in our favorite chair. Two is cartoons on the couch, a sprinkler in the backyard, butterflies in the garden.
Two is eyes looking up at me for guidance, two is first pig-tails, and two is marveling at new discoveries. Two is popsicles melting, two is knowing the power of your cuteness, and two is Daddy wrapped around your little finger.
Two is magical and heartbreaking, a bittersweet time between past and present. Two is remembering every part of your babyhood in every possible way, from the kicks you once imparted on my ribs to the cries that first reverberated in my soul as you entered the world.
Two is cradling the baby I once held with the little girl you will become.
Two is beautiful and two is also hard.
Because two is here, even if I don’t know if I’m quite ready for it.