So big and so small


“She wants you.” he said, standing in the doorway.

My body groaned. I grumbled. Something about just wanting to rest. To sit. To read. Something about exhaustion and why won’t they just go to sleep. Something about such is the life of a mother, he said. Oh this motherhood.

But I got up. And I went to her. And in her big room, such a little girl, softly lit by night lights and softly streaming jazz, she sat there. And she wanted a hug.


Just the day before, I had offered a day of hugs. Stay home with me on this beautiful, sunny Friday, I offered. Or go to camp . I felt sure I knew what her answer would be and had already moved ahead to plan the next set of choices: zoo or park? Or maybe museum? What should we do with this lovely day we have to spend together?

3 friends

But she chose camp.

I nodded and I smiled and I packed her lunch and zipped up her swimsuit. And before camp, we went to the dentist where she sat on her own while they took x-rays and showed us, right there on the screen, her big teeth. There they were, hiding, tucked in right behind her baby teeth. Big teeth. They looked so big. And there they were. Right there.

And then we rushed off to camp and she and her things moved swiftly from me to her friends and camp counselors. So I adjusted the baby on my hip and we left. I dragged him to the grocery store and then to the park where the band sings and the toddlers dance and giggle. I wanted him to sit on my lap and snuggle with me while sweet guitar melodies settled softly around us. But he wanted to climb into the fountain.


All she wanted was a hug. So in the darkness, the soft light of night lights, I hugged. I kissed her forehead. I looked into her eyes, heavy with sleep and a weepiness I recognize as just wanting comfort and just needing rest. I waited for her to say something, but she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t know what to ask for. Maybe she didn’t want to ask. Maybe it had been a big couple of days and she had done big things, taken those big steps of becoming a big girl. And maybe, once all had settled and she had made it to the edge of sleep, it had all just felt so big.


Earlier that day, she had danced. We, her brother and Daddy and me, we sat on the black studio floor, our backs against the floor to ceiling mirror, her audience. And she smiled and waved and danced. The days when she wouldn’t make it more than five minutes through this class before collapsing into a puddle in our laps and joining us in the audience to watch her classmates, those days are so long ago. A memory now. And I hated those days. I got so angry. Just dance, I had urged her and pushed her and gotten angry at her. And yet…

girl on top of slide

After dance, a birthday party. There was not enough space for the adults in the venue so I hugged and kissed and I left and she stayed. I left and she stayed. She painted and danced and met princesses and ate pizza and I missed her.


It had all felt so big. Not too big. This is right, I know. This leaping and jumping and leaving and staying. Her life won’t happen right by my side. 

This is growing.


And her face radiates such beauty when she makes those leaps. Her eyes shine and her smile, oh that smile of look-what-I-just-did? I can’t get enough. She leaps with a grace and a beauty and a love of life that I’m still working on mastering. And I get the honor of watching her leap and live and make things beautiful. 

When she completes her leap and lands solidly, confidently on the ground, I have the hug that allows her body to soften again.


Finally, she did ask. She asked that I stay. I promised I would stay until she fell asleep. So she rolled over and curled up as I sat on the edge of her bed. And sleep came quickly. So quickly that I think she was asleep long before I thought to lean over and peek. I tucked her blankets up around her chin and kissed her head and smoothed her hair and marveled that she could be so big and so small at exactly the same time.


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