Our family of five celebrates four birthdays in the span of twenty-eight days. Three of those birthdays occur within just eleven days, like some rapid-fire observance of aging where I keep announcing, "Let them eat cake!" and the children rejoice.
I never thought that I'd need a recovery period after a birthday season. It's not like it's physically draining, like a lengthy hockey season where bodies get worn down from being slammed into the boards and teeth are knocked out by ricocheting pucks, mind you, but I'll admit that it feels good to close the celebratory window and resume normal life.
This past wave of birthdays moved my children one rung higher on the ladder, as birthdays do. The girls are now nine, six, and four.
What surprised me is not that I have a daughter who is nine (a factor that lands me squarely in the "mother of an emerging tween" category, which is a topic for another post), but rather that my youngest is four.
FOUR years old.
All shreds of babyhood are gone. In its place, is more freedom (for me) and comprehension (for her) and ease of daily life tasks (for all of us). These are wonderful strides, but sometimes a mom needs to grieve a little over the stage that has passed and never will return.
I should tell you that the night before her fourth birthday, Kerrington repeatedly bounced out of bed and harassed her sister who was trying to sleep. I should share that I patiently climbed the stairs three separate times and calmly said, "Lights out. Simmer down." I should admit that on the fourth time, I wasn't so patient.
My voice struck that frightening low yet loud pitch that parents on the brink can readily conjure, and the words spilled out through clenched teeth: "I don't want to see you until tomorrow. In. Bed. NOW!"
And it was a true sentiment. I wanted that little kid to go to sleep, not repeatedly pop up like an overzealous whack-a-mole, and I didn't want to see her until tomorrow...
... which was her birthday.
Oh, man. My last act as a mother of a three-year-old was to yell at her.
That wouldn't do.
When I slipped back into her bedroom she already was asleep. I claimed the spot beside her in bed, stretched out, and examined her face. She still instinctively draws her thumb to her mouth when she's tired. I brushed her bangs off her forehead. I whispered that the moon -- her moon, as she likes to call it -- was glowing brightly.
Her eyes momentarily flickered, and in a manner that showed a remarkable lack of surprise to find me lying beside her just inches from her face, she smiled and murmured, "Hi mama," before closing her eyes and drifting off to sleep again.
I'll savor that final moment of her three-year-oldness.
I had been wrong, and I hadn't even known it. I had wanted to see her before we reached tomorrow.