She sneaked out of bed last week about an hour after bedtime. She didn’t wear the usual mischievous look on her face that typically appears when she is angling for more TV time. She sleepily walked over to me and crawled into my lap without a word. I held her close, practically rocking her as though she were still a tiny baby.
At seven, though, she is far from tiny or a baby anymore. It’s not the weight of her that has removed her from the baby category. At fifty pounds, she is thin and lithe, but she is tall, her arms and legs now gangling from her body. Her face has lost any remnant of baby fat, and I occasionally catch glimpses of what my sweet girl will look like in ten years, or twenty.
So, as she sat on my lap that night, I held her closer still, knowing that these moments were fleeting. How many more times would her entire body fit into my arms? How much longer will she be able to rest her head on my chest in just the right way? I knew this particular time would not be the last time I’d hold her like this, but I was also keenly aware that that time would be coming, and far too quickly.
I breathed in the sweet scent of her freshly washed hair and, although it was a different smell than that of a precious infant, it was still familiarly innocent. I kissed the top of her head, and she snuggled closer still. But it was time for her to go back to bed. We both knew we had pushed the limits of our normal routine.
She drowsily asked if I would carry her back to bed like a baby, and I immediately obliged. I didn’t scoop her up easily like I have done for the last seven years; I had to brace myself, prepare for the impact. Would this be the last time I would cradle her in my arms? Perhaps not, as I am definitely too determined to hang on to these baby years. But that time is coming, without a doubt.
Until then, I will cling to these special, sweet moments; and I will brace myself, prepare for the impact of the day that is sure to come … the day that her head rests on my shoulder instead of my chest, the day that I can no longer physically lift her up in my arms, the day that I can no longer pretend that my beautiful child is still a baby.
Of course, no matter how much she grows, no matter how awkward or difficult or different the hold becomes, I will always hold a place for her in my both my lap and my heard as my baby girl.