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The other day, I looked at a picture of my daughter, a gorgeous bald-headed, two-tooth grinning beautiful baby girl. Ironically, it was fastened on the fridge next to her kindergarten picture, an equally gorgeous image, and I realized something super duper important:
The photos instantly transported me back in time to five years ago. I saw myself with my baby and my 2-year-old, forcing a smile on my face and exhausted beyond all belief from staying up all night, every night (really). My baby had a missed infant acid reflux diagnosis, and it would take me five years to figure it out, doctor after doctor telling me that sometimes babies "just spit up."
Truth be told, that time in my life was a dark time for me. I was exhausted at every single level, physically, mentally and emotionally, and as much as I consider myself a "baby person" and I loved my babies then, you couldn't pay me a million dollars to go back to that time.
I looked at my smiling 5-year-old daughter in front of me and realized, much to my surprise, that as sad as I often feel to no longer have babies in my life, I much, much preferred that sweet little kindergartener sitting in front of me to the screaming baby she once had been.
Is that horrible to admit? Does that make me a bad mother? An inhumane person?
I don't know, but honestly, I don't really care either.
She's thriving in ways I never saw coming.
I've been struggling for a very long time with my kids growing up. It feels so cruel and so painful to pour everything into my kids during these formative years, only to know that they will never remember it, and to essentially prep them to fly the coop forever. I've fallen solidly into the "I want my babies to stay babies forever" camp for a long, long time, so realizing that holy crap, I actually like my kids even more as they grow is a big deal for me.
Let's repeat that, again, shall we?
I like my kids.
I genuinely enjoy them. They are cool. And funny. And interesting. And while my arms may not be full of baby rolls and diapers anymore, I instead get to read "Little House on the Prairie" with them, help them with their homework and crack jokes with them.
That wailing, miserable baby that turned me into a shred of a woman has grown to be the sweetest, most kind-hearted, incredibly sensitive and hilarious little girl who loves writing and puppies. She's thriving in ways I never saw coming. I love her so much it feels like a sharp rush of cold air when you step out on a winter day without a coat on—shocking, slightly painful, but at the same time, you just want to take a deep breath and take it all in.
Of course, I may be saying this because I still have the safety net of having one baby at home, but at 15 months old, she is ever fast losing her adorable baby "chubs" and turning into a sassy threenager well before her time. (I guess this is what happens when you have older sisters? Sigh.) I look at her literally over 30 times a day and my heart breaks a little at losing my sweet, cuddly little baby who routinely comes up to me just to have me hold her and lays her head on my shoulder in the most innocent gesture of love I could ever imagine. I will miss that so, so much. It makes me choke up just thinking about it. If you're ever having a bad day, just have a baby come up to you and lean her head on you in a chubby hug, and I guarantee you that you will realize that the world is still good.
But I'm getting sidetracked here. My point is, as much as I will miss the innocent love and sweet comfort of having a baby in my arms to hold, as much as I will miss the adorable antics she fills her home with, I am learning to look forward to the person she will become just as much. Maybe even more.
Because if I love her this much as a baby, just imagine what a cool little kid she's going to turn out to be.