On Friday, I drop the kids off at school and kiss them good-bye. A week passes, quickly and suddenly, and I find myself in the midst of Friday once again. As I load the backpacks and snow pants and library books into my car, I notice the slight shift. The girls were having a typical sister argument about a random stuffed animal (Lily: “You smacked me with that!!!” Vivienne: “You chose to stand in front of me while I was swinging it!!!” When both the eight year old and five year old have valid points to an argument, I choose to ignore it and let them figure it out.) while I checked in with their dad about the upcoming week. And in that small minute moment, the shift echoed in the silent spaces between.
Over dinner that night, Vivienne clammed up when I asked about school and what “personal goal” her teacher had chosen for her (speaking up in class). Lily, in contrast, held the conversation hostage with her tales about school and third grade friends and drama between said friends.
“I didn’t sit with them at lunch, and they each came up to the table, one by one, to ask why I wasn’t sitting with them.”
“What did you say?”
“I didn’t say anything until the third girl asked. Then I just told her that I was sitting where I was because I wanted to.”
“It can be hard sometimes, especially with friends who are girls,” I tell her, “Some girls think you should only have a few best friends and those are the only girls you ever hang out with or have lunch with.”
“Yeah, but a real friend gets it that sometimes I just want to play with a different friend.”
I think about my own third grade self, my current friendships, and others that evaporated or disintegrated with the passage of time. Cleaning up the dishes from dinner (or rather, pouring myself more wine while my partner cleans them up, lucky duck), the shift smacks me upside the head. My girls, my wonderful and amazing girls, are a week older. They are bigger in ways beyond winter boots fitting snugly or pants inching up above ankles. After a year of switching them back and forth between houses, it shouldn’t surprise me that they continue to change in each of those weeks. But it does.
Vivienne has a play-date with a friend from her old preschool tomorrow, and I ask Lily if we can do something special during that time, just the two of us. She distractedly says, “Yeah! That’d be fun!” in-between moves on the computer game she is playing.
And then it really hits me. These moments are dwindling and I can literally watch them like grains of sand in an hourglass. This is the shift.
“It’s coming,” I tell my partner, “The time when I ask her that question and she says ‘No’ – that she wants to be with her friends or at the mall or wherever – is coming. Thank god I still have this time.”
I remember how much could happen in the span of a week when the girls were infants. In the thick of babydom, I merely survived. The inevitable remarks of “She’s so much bigger! How different she is now! How amazing!” would be cast from anyone who didn’t interact with us on a daily basis. I would simply nod and agree, but always on a superficial level. I was living that “amazing” baby every day and, while loving them with every ounce of my soul, honestly just wanted to sleep and sit somewhere by myself while enjoying a glass of wine. Without the “amazing” baby.
The shift was present then, and still remains.
After the shock of this revelation passes, I remind myself to focus on this week. I will embrace my daughters for who they are right now. I take a deep breath, relish my past memories, excite in future possibilities, and ultimately, feel grateful for the time today.