My firstborn daughter just turned 5.
Five. An age that seemed so far away when we brought her home from the hospital on Thanksgiving day, feeling somehow exhausted, excited, overwhelmed and at peace at the same time.
Five is an age that seemed imaginary when I was walking her back and forth on the floor of our room, trying to soothe her and get her back to sleep for the fourth time that night, wondering if I was ever going to have a full night’s rest, thinking this phase might just last forever.
Five is an age that seemed like a lifetime when she took her first steps walking down our hallway on Christmas day and we thought, "Well, now it’s getting real, isn’t it?" The growing-up thing.
That first year goes slow and then fast and then, apparently, every year after that is a blink.
I opened my eyes this morning and that newborn baby was downstairs before the sun, dressed in her new birthday outfit and begging me to help her put together the 370-piece Lego set she unwrapped the night before. Hold on girl, let me get my coffee…
And also, what was I thinking? 370 pieces is a commitment I wasn’t ready for.
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Being ready. That seems to be a theme in the lives of parents. The being ready when the little pink line shows up. The being ready when we bring them home. The being ready when they have a poop explosion in the middle of the Sunday school program five minutes before they are supposed to make their debut as Baby Jesus No. 4.
Being ready when they ask the tough questions about where they were before they were born and how many stars are in the sky and when great-grandma got to heaven, did she get to be young again?
I thought these kinds of questions came later. This is only five. Pretty soon she’ll be reading and then she’ll be driving, taking her little sister along on the big wide-open road away from us and toward a life of their own making.
Once I asked my husband his greatest wish for his daughters and he said that if they grew up and felt like they could unapologetically be themselves, whoever that is, we would have done our jobs.
And then he said something that I loved. He said he was excited to learn from them, to get into what they’re into, whether it’s ballet or trapshooting, science experiments or cake-decorating.
Just the other day he proved he wasn’t bluffing when he came up from watching TV in the basement with the girls and said, “You know, those Barbie movies are actually pretty good.” Something I never thought would come out of his mouth five years ago.
The same way I never thought I would be sitting down at 7 a.m. to put a Lego tower together.
But you do it for them, for your children. Because their happiness is your happiness, and isn’t that the greatest gift they can give us, to live beyond ourselves so that they can go out into the world and ask the big questions?
Even if that day seems about as far away as the day we put the last block on this Lego tower…
Happy birthday, Edie. You are our dream come true.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.