On the eve of her 8th birthday, I watched her sleep.
And as I stood over her, listening to the soft rhythm of her breath I thought, “I’m going to miss her.”
The 7-year-old girl who is no longer there. The girl who has carried herself bravely through this past year. Who has adapted to new surroundings and poured her heart into new people. The one who has let go of me as much as she has hung on. Whose nights snuggling with baby blankets and stuffed animals are numbered.
Just like I miss the 6-year-old girl who is no longer there. The girl who wasn’t afraid to sing in front of an audience. Who hadn’t yet started demanding privacy or declaring that she was too scared to pursue her interests. The girl whose heart had not yet been broken by distant friendships and feelings of rejection.
Just like I miss the 5-year-old girl who is no longer there. The girl who welcomed her baby brother into her world with wonder and delight. Who made space for him even when it meant less space for her. The girl whose heart grew as she learned how to be a big sister. The one who wore her hair in messy pigtails and adorned herself with sequins while kneeling down on the floor to admire her little brother.
Just like I miss the 4-year-old girl who is no longer there. The girl who talked to God through hand-written letters. Who addressed the envelopes to GOD and assumed they’d be delivered to heaven’s front door. The girl who prayed for both a future sibling and the one who’d already gone to heaven. The one who pushed dolls and teddy bears in baby swings at the park, imagining that they were living beings.
Just like I miss the 3-year-old girl who is no longer there. The girl who let go of my hand for the first time as she walked into a classroom full of other toddlers. Who has been letting go of my hand ever since. The one whose every day attire consisted of tiaras and princess dresses. Who was just learning how to speak up – for herself and others.
Just like I miss the 2-year-old girl who is no longer there. The girl who hadn’t yet formed too many of her own opinions. Who let me dress her without a fight. Who was still learning to pronounce certain letters of the alphabet – whose “I love you” came out as “I wuv you.” Who climbed into bed with me each morning, singing the day’s glories in her most joyful voice.
Just like I miss the 1-year-old girl who is no longer there. The girl who was just beginning to take shape. Whose eyes grew wide at the sight of the world surrounding her and whose legs could take her places she hadn’t been before. The one whose wispy hair tickled my cheeks, whose white, untarnished teeth glistened with every smile. Who called out for “mama” for the first time.
Just like I miss the baby girl whose dark eyes stirred awe within my soul as I looked into them for the first time. Who was content simply to be cradled in my arms. The one who made me a mother.
I’m saying goodbye to the first seven years with this girl, the first seven versions of her that I’ve had the privilege to know. And I miss all of them.
But I’m looking forward to all the versions of her I have yet to meet. All the other girls that live within this one. And I have no doubt her future will be as beautiful as her past.