I don’t know how it happened. It came on suddenly, between minutes, hours and days. Time says it’s been eight whole years since she entered the world, but I beg to differ. It feels like contracted months in a span of many lives. And time says she is nearly a pre-teen.
I say, they must be right. But just for a bit longer, let’s still call her my baby.
She entered this world during a terrible winter storm. When I’m around my sister; her godmother, Christina; or my mother, we talk about the intensity of that winter and that day. Roads were locked the days leading up to it, train service was scarce, and it was the only time in my close memory that I have experienced New York in such an apocalyptic state.
There is no perfect way to bring a baby into the world. But in a winter storm made her entrance unique and powerful, and it, of course, has shaped the last eight years…
On the morning of her eighth birthday, she woke up and curled her body into mine. Folding over the edge of my bed, sliding her curls on top of my pillow, burying my face. I whispered, “Happy birthday, baby,” and she turned over and said, “Thank you, Mommy. But I don’t feel older. 8 doesn’t feel different.” I responded as I always do, “With time.”
Here’s the thing I’ve learned over the last 8 years: Nothing is promised, and everything changes with time. Me, them, her. The situation. The home. I have learned that motherhood — parenthood rather — is a cumulation of constant change, and we have to keep a few things sacred, a few things at our bottom line, and the communication always at the forefront. I am no expert, but I think raising a child for the entirety of my 20s has taught me to be formidable and forgiving and relentlessly willing to meet myself and my children where we may be.
For her birthday, I hosted a sleepover with her close friends. I made an Annie’s confetti cake with cream cheese icing. I put the vintage tablecloth (which used to be a curtain) on the dining room table, laid colorful snacks on fancy plates, took out the crafts, played the music, and threw on my own pajamas, too. We danced and laughed, and I kept going back to a conversation with a dear friend months back. My friend read an article about sexual assault and other things I don’t need to mention. It is the conversation on all of our tongues. We then moved into a conversation about teenagers feeling safe to come home. And I was challenged. I was challenged and faced with the reality. I want to continue to talk with my daughter, but am I willing to give her the space and freedom necessary to always find safety in my home?
For awhile, I will bask in the fact that these topics are so far from River’s mind. Her hands and heart is full of her girlfriends in pajamas and painting and too much cake. And I’ll sit back, waiting and open to the challenge that one day will quickly arrive in crushed minutes, days, months and years.
How wonderful it has been these last years. How many lessons we have learned. Here’s to eight years, and so much more learning and loving along the way.