Every night, I stealthy steal into their bedrooms to plant long, smothering kisses on their cheeks--the too-long kisses they shirk during waking hours. But as I pad into their rooms, I stop abruptly when I see those long, lean masses in their beds. Didn't I just lay a swaddled baby into a crib here? Didn't I just change that diaper and check to make sure no strings or blind pulls were near that crib? Wasn't I just frantically placing light switch covers? And wasn't I just rubbing chubby wrists, padded hands and succulent, rotund thighs?
When did my children stretch and lengthen and become so lean and sinewy? And when did they start to look so old? When did their round bellies give way to sculpted rib cages? Where did their treasured baby fat go?
Today, in the parking lot, Abby walked beside me as I pushed Henry in the cart. (No small feat, by the way, to get Henry in the cart since he's a 41 pound chunk of little man.) I looked down at Abby. But not too far down as she is, in her own words, as tall as my breasts. (She'd better hope she's measuring when I'm wearing my superduper lifting bra which restores me to my pre-breastfeeding glory...if you call a 34B glory, which I do, so there.) Anyway, I asked Abby, as she elegantly walked beside me, how she got to be so old. It was not a rhetorical question. I hoped that she might provide an insight into how we arrived at this point, with her blond curls casually pulled into a hair tie, with her hip, effortless outfit swaying as she walked, head high, scanning the parking lot for cars.
She shrugged and said cheerfully, "I don't know."
Me neither. With each shift, a moving smorgasbord of passing delights and newfound joys entice me. While I say goodbye to the chubbiest wrists, an eloquent metamorphosis greets me. Angular cheeks and long muscles usher in sweet independence and brave, new territories. Eye rolls, yes. But also intelligent questions which track my line of thinking. Lovely conversations. All at once symbolizing the final chapter and the first words of a new phase. The babies are gone. In their place live children. Sitting in open spaces and sprawling those long, lean legs.
That fierce, fire-in-my-belly love morphs, too. Deeper. More...connected. Seriously humbled. Amazed at how little I truly knew when I started this parenthood caper and how much knowledge I have yet to gain. With each passing day, I morph into a more accepting version of myself. I become less sure, but sure that less sure is okay. I learn from these little, or not-so-little, souls--and revel in their gracious ability to teach me.
And the love grows. Abby will be seven tomorrow. Seven. We all grow, apart and together, sometimes merely co-existing. I'm growing, too, while once again, trying not to blink.