In this age of omni-present technology, my husband and I have managed to capture a multitude of priceless milestones and moments of our kids’ lives on photo and video. The real challenge has been deciding where to keep them, how to store them, and how to share them. With three separate computers and two separate iPhones, all with thousands of pictures and videos, our organizational scheme has proven to be lacking.
Amongst our digital piles and messes, my husband discovered a forgotten video of our daughter reading The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper. In our family, we always say, “By Watty Piper”, because that is how our daughter always said it when she asked us to read it to her approximately 17384 times when she was between the ages of 1-3. Well, in this video, our sweet eldest child is barely 1 ½ years old, with her baby-fine mullet hair floating in wisps around her toddler cheeks, sitting on the cream-colored carpet in her room with the book in her lap. The sight of her in this moment took my breath away. I stared at her, mouth agape, and said only, “Oh!” I couldn’t speak.
At this time in her life, there was no baby brother yet, no big girl bed, no plans to become a flying trapeze artist when she grows up, no obsession with belugas and other sea creatures. She was just our baby. Our first born. The little person who consumed our thoughts and time and energy and more blueberries than we ever thought possible. And here she was, moving and real on the screen in front of us.
I remember when she was this age, whenever she would do or say something new, I’d smile knowingly and explain to others where she got that from. I knew just what book she heard that word from and which experience prompted that new interest. It was so easy to see the immense effect I had on her, and I held such pride and respect for the power I held in my relationship with her.
Somewhere along the way, I heard her speak a word that didn’t come from me. An idea that originated in her own mind, or was borrowed from someone or someplace else. I looked in her eyes and saw a person separate from me, not the baby whose heartbeat seemed intertwined with mine, but someone new, unique, all her own.
Every moment of parenthood is an act of letting go. It’s a long, complicated dance of teaching and learning, leading and following, praying and hoping, trying and failing, holding on and letting go.
As I watched my little toddler read her favorite book, reciting “but we must get over the mountain! Perhaps she can help us!” in her little squeaky munchkin voice, I could so clearly see how far she has come. How much she has changed and grown! This glimpse into her past, our past, presented a contrast that surprised me and delighted me: on one side, the toddler whose interests and experiences were directly dependent on me, and on the other side, the big girl with plans and dreams and desires all her own.
Having been blessed with a sentimental mom, I used to think that moms wished their babies would stay babies forever. Why else would they tear up and cry every time they looked at their kids’ baby pictures? But that isn’t quite it, is it? We aren’t crying in longing for what used to be. We are marveling over the journey, astounded at the process of growth, overwhelmed at the passage of time, and in most cases, our hearts are beating out of our chests with pride over the amazing people our tiny babies have blossomed into.