There With You

I flick on the bedside lamp and sit on the edge of her bed. Part of me is excited to wake her. She is my sidekick, and it seems strange when she is not right there with me. The other part of me wants to just sit and watch her sleep. She is so peaceful, but the world awaits.

Rousing her from sleep is not a chore, as you might imagine, but something to which I look forward. I want to be the first thing she sees, and for her day to begin on a positive note; a small gift I can give her – or perhaps a gift I give myself.

This morning she is a mermaid caught in a tangled net of polka dot sheets, wild and wavy hair spilled onto her pillow. Craning to look at her face, I sigh and half smile. It is time for this mermaid to surface from the deep.

I brush a wayward tendril from her face with one hand, as I rub her back with the other. Coaxing her into my arms, I envelope her there and seal her wake up ritual with a peck on the cheek. She is getting so big, and is almost too heavy for me to comfortably hold in my lap. I hold her anyway.

Her voice is thick with sleep when she says that she doesn’t want to get up yet, and I empathize. It’s early. She presses her lightly freckled face into my neck, and cuddled on the edge of her bed, we are under a spell.

Here, we are safe and warm, unsullied by the trials and tribulations of the day ahead. Though reluctant to break the moment, I feel the outside world pressing in.

Her bright pink clock ticks softly on the wall, then more insistently. Too soon responsibility pushes through, and untangling her from the blankets, I lever her onto her feet. Time to get to it.

I smile at the way she stumbles with exaggerated grogginess down the hall, a little pinball with a shock of mussed-up hair. While I prepare for the day, I pause to glance at her, and realize that she is watching me with interest as she eats her breakfast. I know that she is cataloguing each minutia of my routine in an ever-growing file of what she knows about me.

Mostly, though, her focus is on having her hair styled, requesting two pigtails with a long sweep of bangs parted to the side and curled. Today is her last full day of grade two, so I quickly comply. Just as I unleash the final curl, she shouts, “Thank you!” and blasts out of the room.

Strangely, perhaps, I relish the opportunity to be that voice in her head – the one that will echo in her subconscious throughout her days, reminding her to use her manners.

Sometimes our mornings go well, and sometimes not so much. There are days when she wants my help and slips into an outfit I suggest without quarrel. Then there are times when nothing seems to be exactly right. It occurs to me that she has learned this from me, so I try hard to be mindful as I select my own clothes. Little eyes, always watching.

Luckily, today is a good day. She’s matched a miniature blazer with a bright tunic and black leggings. I am impressed, and muse how a seven year old has a better sense of fashion than me. Looking in the mirror, I contemplate changing my sweater.

“It looks good, mommy,” she says, reading my mind. She pulls at my arm.

We make our way downstairs, and out of the house, in a tornado of what needs to be remembered for the day. By the time we are in the car and driving I’m feeling a bit guilty for rushing her, and I can see that she’s staring solemnly out the window. So we debrief.

She’s anxious, and a bit sad that school is almost over. I remind her that we’ll send little cards home with a few of her friends, so their parents and I can set up playdates over the summer. These, along with the treats we still have to make later tonight for her class.

About that. She had wanted to do something special for some of her school friends to commemorate the end of the school year. I had said that it’s better not to be exclusionary; that if you’re going to give treats to a few classmates, you should provide them for the entire class.

I sigh, thankful that softball is over for the season, though I loved watching her play. I reflect on her last turn at bat, during the last game of the year, when she got her first home run. My heart swells with pride.

I knew then that I would put my name in for Assistant Coach next season. I have some experience and could be of  help. How great would it be to take part in something so constructive with my girl?

I’m glad too for the reprieve from dance classes, and that her school recital is done – so much preparation. I smile at the notion of an upcoming break from field trips and lunches and permission forms and memos. Not because I seek to rush through our time together, but because it means that summer is just around the corner.

I am so excited  for the adventures we will have.

After walking her into daycare, I see her standing in the window. She makes a heart shape with her hands and mouths “I love you,” and I do the same.

That inside tug, not wanting to leave her, is just as strong as ever. The same feeling I had the first day I dropped her off at preschool. But I have to squelch it and keep moving, we both have full days ahead of us. Who knows what they will bring.

As I drive to work, I realize that I had never expected to love being a mom so much; there is a comfort in knowing that tonight we will perform some variation of our nightly routine.

After dinner and chores and playtime, after bath time and brushing her teeth and a bedtime story, I’ll nuzzle my face into the nape of her neck. I will reflect on how she is my favourite place.

I know that I will consider how, as of tomorrow, she will be finished grade two. I know it will sting a bit, that I’ll think how in some ways I want her to be like this – seven years old, forever. But then, I have had this same thought at every age, at every milestone along the way.

And perhaps that is the point. That no matter how much she grows, what her interests are, or what milestones she passes – I always want to be right there, with her.

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