My daughter recently had another birthday, and honestly, I can’t believe it. I cannot believe my husband and I have been blessed with this child for several years. When I was up to my elbows in dirty diapers trying to function on two hours of sleep it didn’t feel like the time was flying by. But now . . . now I look back and I wonder how on earth my baby can be in grade school. How is it even possible?
I remember the moment she was delivered, fist up next to her face, her father and I in tears, and they put her on my chest for the first time and placed that tiny little hat on her her tiny little head. She was early; ahead of her time, which I have come to learn is who she is. An “old soul” I always say.
A few weeks ago her father and I were standing in the kitchen talking about a movie when she said, “Oh, it was like a portal.”
“What?” I asked.
“Like a portal.”
“Do you know what a portal is?” her father asked her.
“Yeah. Like we live in a world and then there is a portal and on this other side (she moved her hands) there is a different world. Like dinosaurs.”
The description was pretty accurate. Her father and I raised our eyebrows, shook our heads and asked, “Where did you hear that word?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged her shoulders, grabbed a juice box and went off to play.
Amazing. She has been amazing since the moment she entered this world. Five weeks early. On her own terms. When SHE was ready. We fed her with an eyedropper, wrapped her in a billy blanket, put her in a laundry basket next to us when she was asleep. In our twenties, we were nervous newbies to parenthood. We learned as we went. Our baby girl was an excellent teacher. She was persistent, and loving, and told us exactly what she wanted. She still does. And she still rewards us with the greatest of smiles and an abundance of love.
She took her first steps at nine months. At 11-months-old, with Croup, she stood up in her crib and cried, “Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! MaMa!”
In the early morning hours, mid-winter, we rushed to the hospital. By the time we arrived she had stopped crying; I had not. The receptionist smiled as my husband explained we were actually there because of the baby. He put his arm around me and patted me on the shoulders as he, too, grinned. Turns out you should take babies out into the cold when they have Croup; it helps.
We continue to do everything we can, my husband and I, to nurture our daughter. To help her grow and learn and love and be who she is meant to be. And she continues to show us what an incredible person she is.
She came to me one day with a stack of colored construction paper. On the pages that had been stapled together she had written a story and drawn some pictures. “Mom, I need you to publish this,” she said.
“Oh. What is it?”
“It’s a story about a big bird and a little bird.”
“Okay,” I said with a smile.
“Can you publish it in a book?”
“I can scan it and print it on the printer.”
“Yeah, okay. I need you to do that and then I need a bunch of copies. I’m going to read it.”
“Oh. Where are you going to read it?”
“I don’t know. That’s what I want to do for my birthday.”
“Okay,” I said, and I took the pages and read the story of a big bird and a little bird. It was beautiful.
My daughter ended up redoing the entire book on plain white paper so it would scan more clearly. After waiting for many, many days, I am printing her story and she is preparing to read it at show and tell today. My baby girl. She is going to stand in front of her class and read the story she wrote about two beautiful, colorful birds. One big and one small. And she’s going to share the drawings she did to go with the story. And in a couple days, she is going to read to family and friends at a public library. My baby’s gonna do that. But that’s not even the best part. Ready for the best part?
I was in the kitchen washing dishes when I heard her dad ask her, “So is the big bird mom and the little bird you?”
“No. The big bird is me and the little bird is Bubba,” she said.
A lump lodged right in my throat. Her story about a big bird who teaches a little bird to fly is about her teaching her brother. She does. She teaches him all sorts of things all the time. She used to help me get his diapers and hold his bottle. When he got a bit older she helped put his hats on and get his blankie. Then it was counting to five and crawling into his big boy car seat. Now it’s showing him how to tie shoes and zip up his coat and play hide and seek and draw and dance and tell jokes and make up riddles and build snowmen. What started out as helping mom has blossomed into connecting with and teaching her brother. And that’s how my baby girl is. She’s like this rare flower that continually turns toward the sunshine and grows and grows and grows in ways I never imagined. The sight of her ignites smiles and her spark of energy and light brightens people’s day.
She added one last page to her book that I scanned. It, too, has two colorful birds. One big. One small. It reads: To my brother . . .