We were lying there in her big double bed. The moon was pouring in through her shutters and we’d long exhausted the 10 new library books she’d asked me to read. It was that sweet period of time when you can tell a child’s really exhausted but they try with all their might to stay awake and keep talking. I watched her eyelids get heavy as I stroked her hair back gently, parting her bangs to the side.
I told her about the next few months and how we’re planning to move. We’ve been calling the other house “The House With the Long Driveway” to differentiate it to our kids when we’re discussing plans. Half asleep, she asked me quietly, “Mama? Can I take my stuffed animals and blanket to that house? Can we take the stickers off of my wall and can I bring my toothbrush?”
I looked around her room and my heart almost broke thinking of packing up all of her precious, tiny things and moving them into a new room where there weren’t memories made yet. Every corner of her room now holds a special and sweet moment, most of which I was the only adult around to experience.
I thought in the dark about that afternoon we painstakingly cut out paper dolls on the rug below the foot of her bed. I saw her step stool leading to the sink and imagined blow-drying her hair as she stood atop the highest rung. We’ve lived so much life in these little rooms over the past three years and even though that’s a really short span of time in the long scheme of things, it crawls by when you’re a new mama in over your head with diapers and lovies and cartoons and days full of everything and absolutely nothing all at once.
She looks at the future and only asks about what she can see. Will she be able to bring her favorite things and can her papa come? Of course, I reassure her. But can we recreate that balmy late summer afternoon when I affixed all of those different-toned blush pink decals to her ceiling? Can we settle into that same position against a new wall, where she lies her head on my shoulder and we read until she drifts to dreamland? What about hide-and-seek under the bed or laughs down the hallway to her brother’s bedroom? Will we do those things in the new space?
I believe we will but I’m also incredibly apprehensive about change. What they don’t tell you about planning for the future with kids is that suddenly, you realize how incredibly sweet even the hardest moments in the past were. I looked at her door and remembered that afternoon when I was begging her papa to leave the office early. My eyes filled with tears, I sat against the doorframe while she had a total and complete meltdown that I swear lasted two hours. That was over a year ago and she’s never been that little, or that dependent on me, since.
Those bathroom walls? They’re water-stained with splashes from overly enthusiastic little bathtub swimmers. I can recall so many nights of begging them to contain the water inside and to be careful not to spill any out. If I close my eyes, I can still see myself grabbing frantically for the towels on the back of the door, smashing them against the baseboards and rubbing them hurriedly on the tile to soak up the excess. Now? Another little girl is planning to move in this summer and she’ll just add to the splashes and only step away from it can I see how trivial it all was.
It was also really beautiful. Since having kids, I’ve tried my best to be as forward-thinking as possible. We wrote our wills after our second was born, set up life insurance policies, opened up IRAs and did everything we thought we needed to in order to make the next seasons of our life go as smoothly as they could. No one told me that one night I’d be lying next to my oldest, her sleeping body curled into my stomach just like it was before she was born. I never dreamed I’d be looking at old walls, stained carpet and peeling paint with a knot of nostalgia deep in my gut.
Yes, looking ahead with children can be incredibly hard. Perspective might be 20/20 but so is reflection and from that bedroom vantage point, all I could see was the pure beauty of it all. The hard moments, the easy ones and every two p.m. screamfest in between.
From here out, I’m making it a point to notice that in the thick of the moment, rather than waiting for some major life event to pull the sentiment out of me. I’m leaning into every day and loving every second with the same fervor as someone who’s on the outside looking in admiringly. We’re all still writing these chapters of motherhood, so let’s take our time in the draft. That way, when we’re reading it back to ourselves in an entirely different season, we’ll love the story we created.