June 29, 2011

Glaciers and Caterpillars

My children and their father
I should be asleep.  Or I should be studying for my exam tomorrow.  Or maybe I should keep playing with my shiny new Google+ account.  Instead, I'm going to write a little about one single half hour at the end of my day.

You see, I let my children stay up late to play with fireflies.

My children.  My children.  Two little girls, not babies, mostly verbal, with dirt scuffed knees and interests and practically hobbies for God's sake.
SI reading a book

My children.

I stood on the front lawn and watched as their faces shone with delight and fascination in the twilight, as they ran after lightning bugs, and they sang and danced.

...they sang and danced.  And I just stood there.  Drinking it all in.  Lost beyond expression.

How did this happen?  When did these changelings come in the night and whisk away my infants?  My toddlers?  When did their hair get so thick, their limbs so long and lean, and their interests so mature?  SI knows about 3/4 of the alphabet.  She reads people's t-shirts.  She spells her name.  DD talks constantly, and sometimes even in English.  She's pretty much capable of having a conversation.  She "reads" her favorite books to me.

And I'm suddenly so lost.  I don't know if it's that I've been away so much these last three weeks, or just that it is genuinely happening so fast, but it's indisputable.

My babies have turned into children.  As all babies should.
And now I get to watch my children grow up.

It's amazing how hard it is to say that.  That they're going to grow up.  Because babies don't grow up.  It's impossible.  I mean, just LOOK at a baby.  Just fall in love with a baby.  They have no connection to some mysterious, foreign adult.  They're just a baby.  Or, maybe, they're your baby.  And your baby might learn to walk and talk... but grow up?  Never.  Surely not.

And I stand by that.  Babies don't grow up.  But children do.  Children who have traits that you know will carry on through their entire lives.  Children who make you proud not by reaching developmental milestones, but by achieving academic, artistic, or moral successes.

DD the fashionista
Children who draw you pictures and then tell you that this picture isn't good enough, and they need to do another one.
Children who want to help you with every single chore around the house.
Children who have very specific ideas about their clothes, their accessories (accessories!), their fashion identity.
Children who want to learn.  Who want to learn to be like you, because they love you.

I adored my babies, but they're gone.  I have children now.  Children who are getting ready for the full potty plunge.  Children who are learning to read, to count, to to form their own opinions and even make some decisions.

Children who get so full of excitement over fireflies that they can't contain it and keep running back to hug their mommy who let them stay up late and play outside with the amazing miracles of insect phosphorescence glowing around them.

Children who get so thrilled to see their daddy come to play that they jump and laugh and sing and dance.

And I mourn my babies.  I mourn them, because they're gone forever.  But it's a bittersweet sadness, because in their place they have left me children.  Amazing, incredible, inexplicable children.

And every time I watch them simply being children, I fall in love again.  With their dirty knees, with their tangled curls, with their habits, with their games...

I could say that every day they're less like the tiny, tiny babies that came home in oversized clothes to a house full of mysterious baby-oriented devices I scarcely understood, and it would be true.  But you can also say that every day a butterfly is less like a caterpillar.  Perhaps, but from the day it became a butterfly it was simply unlike a caterpillar.  And now, my babies have become something new yet still continuously changing.

Si is a Daddy's Girl
Every day they are more like who they are.  Every day I learn something about them that I didn't know, but that they did.  Like that SI loves bugs or that DD sings and dances.  I don't know how those amazing personalities made their way into my kids, my kids, but there they are.  Writ large and astounding as anything.

Were they the same people when they were babies?  I would have said yes six months ago, but now I've changed my mind.  They were a zygote of who they are.  They were, to quote Heinlein, "...only an egg."  And now they are hatched, they are formed, they are people.

Each night that I come home from class with my children already in bed, I fight the urge to pick them up and hold them, to wake them and ask them about their day.

I want to ask them if they missed me.  Because I missed them so, so much.

And instead, I go to bed.  Or I do homework.  Because you don't wake up your sleeping children to satisfy your personal curiosities about... what? 

And every morning that I leave the house before they see me, that I hear them waking and happy in their cribs but I sneak away so as not to cause a scene, I fight the same urge.  To ask them if while they were sleeping, something changed.

I want to chronicle every clue about the mysterious transformation taking place before my very eyes.  About the subtleties of my children growing into something new.  About the loss of the babies that I adored, and the emergence of these new people that I love just as much.  That I can't imagine my life without.  That I somehow hardly know.

I want to cry, to beg them to just please slow do because it's happening so terrifyingly fast.  But it's nonsense.  They'll grow up whether I like it or not, and I do like it.  I do want them to grow up, to become older children, to become adolescents, to become adults.

DD and Mommy's Shoes: A Love story
But I also want to kiss every banged elbow, to wipe every tear, to hear every new word, admire every new skill.  And there just isn't time.

I am like a glacier slicing valleys through the years of their youth, and they are children in every ephemeral sense.  I will miss things... I have missed things.  And my heart breaks for the things I've missed, and the things I know I must miss.  And I am bursting at the seams with pride in them, with awe and wonder and love.

...I love them so much.

And I am so glad that I got to watch them discover fireflies.


  1. I am right there with you. Little Bit is 17 months old. Every day he learns something new. He has distinctive likes and dislikes. It seems like only yesterday Hubs and I were bewildered by this beautiful gift from God. Thinking "what now?" I still think that sometimes. He is such an utter joy to watch. There is no feeling like it.

  2. I hear you! Love that you could capture them discovering fireflies--we had a ton of them in our front trees and it looked like Christmas twinkling lights!

  3. Your kiddos are adorable! My "little guy" is turning into a "big guy" this fall and starting first grade. Probably going to be a rough day for me. lol It's happy and sad watching them grow up.

    Visiting via Thirsty for comments.

  4. Oh I so get this! People tried to warn me. They said it would go by so quickly it would make my head spin. I scoffed at them. This week, SB turned 2.5. She is developing at warp speed. It is amazing to see. I was thinking the other day that in the first few years, we seem to focus so much on physical growth. And it's no wonder, when you consider how much of that goes on in such a short time. But then it slows, and you suddenly realize how much they are growing AS A PERSON.

    Chasing fireflies is one of my favorite childhood memories. Sadly, even though we live on the edge of deep woods, we never see any. If I do, I am totally keeping SB up to introduce her to the wonder! :)

    Stopping by from TMP blog hop...

  5. Ahh, that is so sweet. It is amazing what children can do. I wrote a post about what I had missed not to long ago and reading yours is a great reminder.

    As much as I love to see them spread their wings - I miss having babies that you can hold.

  6. Oh! How sweet. I'm so in love with my baby at nearly 5 months old... it's hard to believe she'll be a toddler, then a child rather than the sweet infant she is now. The time goes too fast!

  7. It goes so quickly. Mine are 7 and 4 now and lately I just keep thinking, "I wish I could go back and hold them as babies just one more time". Too bad, you can't just go back once a year and "hold them as babies" again. Enjoy your "children" and the fireflies! Thanks for linking up with us at the S&R weekend hop. Have a great week.



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