Today is my daughter's fourteenth birthday. I'd love to withhold the sappiness of saying, "It seems like yesterday that I held her in my arms, her static tufts of golden hair..." but it really does seem like that. The passage of time moves so quickly, and yet I feel blessed to have lived through every moment of it with her. I can still see the roundness of her bright face, the overwhelming smile that had the capacity to melt the heart. She had the most wonderful little voice when she learned how to speak, and if I close my eyes, I can still hear it.
She always loved to sing. I have videos of her from when she was three and four years old singing as though she was having a concert. I don't know how many times the bear went over the mountain before she finally felt like letting him see what he could see, but she would allow no one to tell her when it was time to go forward. "No, Mommy, I will do it!"
Those words, "No, Mommy, I will do it," soon followed questions like, "Do you want me to tie your shoes?" and "Let me pour you a drink." Before long it applied to "Do you want me to dial Grammy's phone number for you?" and "Can I make you some lunch?" Soon it'll be in response to things like, "Do you need a ride to the mall?" and "Do you want me to help you with your homework."
Her independence is liberating and exciting, while it simultaneously pokes me in the ribs with nostalgic despair. One day I hope she'll be a mother herself so she can understand and enjoy the kind of wonder children inspire. Pre-parenthood, we arrogantly think, "Ha! All those years I had to take lesson from them, now it's my turn to teach the lessons." In truth, I have learned more from her in the last fourteen years than I did during the twenty years that preceded her birth. I could be wrong, but I don't think you really understand how to love others unconditionally until you've had children. That compelling madness that forgives every wrong, the strength and ability to look beyond the mistakes and wrongdoings. There have been mothers who loved their children so much as to forgive them for crimes as dark and unforgivable as murder. Only a mother could love so deeply that she sees beyond the fatalist of flaws.
It's like we're blinded by them. By the notion that they once existed inside of us, as a part of us. That there was a time in their life that they were helpless and relied on us to care for them in every way. They don't remember that time in their life, of course, so when you yell at them for trying to roller skate across an icy parking lot, or for divebombing off of the bed and into nothing more than a highly stacked pile of laundry, they think you're insane.
Sometimes I can't believe it's already been fourteen years, but on the inside, I only hope that I am blessed enough to see the next fourteen years of her life, and the next fourteen after that (and the next fourteen after that...)
And for what it's worth, the fact that she still likes to play dress-up at fourteen is one of the most refreshing things in the world: