I just got back from lunch with Hannah. Just the two of us. A special Hannah/Mommy outing that we both cherish so much in the craziness of life + Luke. We sat on two stools. They were the spinny ones that even I have a hard time not tumbling off of, so I spend most of the meal gripping the sides of hers. She loves going to this particular diner where we sit side by side, up high on the stools. She feels like a big shot. She LOOKS like a big shot. I just kept looking at her and smiling. What a big shot. And we actually talked. It used to be that I’d spend the duration of our meal pulling the knives away from her, piling jelly packets on top of each other, helping her get the food from the plate to her mouth, coloring a picture on the napkins for her, and telling her not to point at the guy with the napkin stuffed in his shirt or the person who she can’t decide whether it’s a boy or girl. Now we talk. How long did I wait for this? I think it was one of the things I mentioned as something “I can’t wait for” from the day she was born. And now it’s here. Real conversation with my daughter.
How many things have I said either out loud or to myself that “I can’t wait for…”?
I can’t wait until she can play on the playground alone
I can’t wait until she can fall asleep on her own
I can’t wait until we can go on a bike ride together
I can’t wait until she eats what I’m cooking for myself
I can’t wait until she can get dressed on her own
I can’t wait until she can go get her own cup of milk
I can’t wait until they can play together in the basement without me
I can’t wait until she’s tall enough to be able to set the table
And after waiting, they happen and then we so quickly move on, waiting for the next goal to be reached. Do we even stop to realize that that “wish” has come true, that it’s now reality? I did today. I recognized that I finally am able to go out to a meal with Hannah and have a conversation without worrying that she’ll throw the sugar packets onto the floor or that she’ll get bored and need to be walked around the restaurant. Some of my other wishes from my list have also already happened. I only see it now as I’m writing them down. And I realize now that they have come and gone, and have become routine and I never smiled to myself when I realized they had finally happened. Sadly, I’m also realizing that if I’M not recognizing them myself, then I know I’m not congratulating Hannah on these little “wins” either. Bad Mommy.
I know I’m proud of her for getting dressed on her own. It’s amazing to me… how recent it seems that I was pulling her little hands through the sleeves of her shirt fearing that I might break her arm off. How recent it also seems that she would refuse to wear anything that wasn’t stretchy around the waist and wide at the ankle or anything without pink, rainbows or butterflies. And now, she comes downstairs dressed. And instead of just saying, “great job Hannah, thank you for doing that all alone!” I also add, “I’m not sure you want to wear the little flower print top with the big flower print pants. It’s too many flowers.” And I see the pride that she wore on her little face disappear so quickly with sadness that she didn’t do it “right”. And I kick myself because dammit, how long did I wait for her to just do it ALONE? Why do I have to knock her down with something she did “wrong”? I think it’s because I’ve moved on to another I can’t wait… “I can’t wait until she gets dressed by herself in something I like.” And then what? … gets dressed quicker, gets dressed earlier, and on and on.
Always waiting for the next thing. Wishing the time to pass. Wishing for the next step in hopes that things will be easier for ME. I need to remind myself that it isn’t just about me. It’s about her (and Luke as he starts to do ANYTHING on his own). It’s about making sure she’s proud of these things I’ve waited so long to see her do. So that she’ll have the confidence to do the next thing. So that she’ll have the desire to do things better. I never want her to feel “what’s the point… no one will notice anyway”.
The main conversation I had with her today on those stools was about what SHE “can’t wait for”. She can’t wait to be 5. She can’t wait for Luke to play with her instead of taking everything from her. She can’t wait for her first sleepover. She can’t wait to share my shoes, wear my jewelry… be a mommy. Crazy that at 4 years old, she’s also wishing away the time. The 4 year old stuff isn’t good enough. She’s not big enough for this, old enough for that. The fun always starts later. And you can’t tell a 4 year old to “live in the moment” because to her, it only gets better. She doesn’t know that although things get more exciting, they also get harder. And scarier. And more important.
And then one day I think we start wishing for the past. “Remember when… oh how I miss those days.” It’s scary. That we’ll wish away all the years that we should be cherishing, and then all of a sudden, we’ll want them back.
So I think I’m going to tell her when she gets up from her nap how much I loved our lunch. How I had looked forward to a lunch like that for so long and it was wonderful. I will also thank her for being such a big girl for sitting so nicely and politely and being so talkative. I know she won’t remember it in a year (or even next month) but I will. And I won’t feel sad down the road that I didn’t tell her how much I loved it.
Now, I just can’t wait for her to pay for lunch.
Addendum, Before publishing this post I made sure to thank Hannah for the lunch. I sat with her in my lap facing me and said just what I planned above to say. Her response? “Mommy… (and I held my breath with the anticipation that she’d tell me how meaningful the lunch was for her too) do you know I think I can feel my ears wiggling without me touching them?” Yep, it apparently was JUST as memorable for her too.