The sun tickles the grass, as the frost turns into nearly-invisible beads of water.
The baby-looking evergreen tree outside the window doesn’t give away the cold that traces it. Your voice escapes through the door behind me, and my heart warms.
I can hear your tiny-girl sounds as Daddy gives you a bath. I can imagine the pink bathwater you sit in, from the coloring tablets that I’m sure he added in for you.
Baby-sister giggles and whines, from wanting to join you, also leak into the room, where I sit typing.
I often wonder what it will be like when your words have become deeper and different; when you are less of a girl and more of a woman. Will I still hear your voice, in my dreams? Will it fade into the room like the sunlight etching the wooden floor next to me, even when your little-girl self is a ghost?
I can’t see wet dewdrops on the blades of grass anymore; the sun has come out enough to create long shadows behind the small, always-green tree.
Daddy calls your baby sister’s name, as he gets her gently from the bathtub, as the pink water surely goes down the drain.
I realized I’ve been holding my breath, and my next inhale is longer and hungrier than usual. My exhale is slow and deliberate. The door opens and your voice is clear behind me, instead of muffled through the bathroom door. Your baby sister trickles from the room, behind Daddy as he leads her into the bedroom to dress, while you sit in the remaining inches of pink water. You love clothes and eagerly wait to get dressed too.
Will I still envision you in mountains of hot-pink ruffles, even when your dresses have become more plain, and more grown up?
This moment in our family—when you and your sister are still so young—is a challenge for your dad and for me. He cares for you—bathing you and dressing you and spending time with you—so that I can take a few minutes alone.
I am never alone. Your voice and the softness of your pink skin are always in my heart—the day after you were born, I became a mother, and it’s engraved there.
You shout impatiently for your father, “Daddy, come here!” It turns silly and sing-song-y, though, and you and Daddy begin singing responsively to each other.
“Daaaaady, cooome he-eere.”
“He–eere I aaaam,” he sings back to you; your legs dangle over the edge of the bathtub, and he dries your curly hair.
I wonder how the little evergreen’s shade, out the window where I frequently write, will look splashed across the lawn when it’s bigger; I wonder, too, what your longer legs will look like crossed over the side of a bubble bath, a book surely damp and in your hand.
I take a forced, slow inhalation, willing away the tears that have started pricking the corners of my mascaraed eyes.
You are not grown yet, although you most assuredly are the same person you’ll be in 20 or 30 or, god-willing, many more years beyond.
But I’m not the same person I was before I had you.
In many ways I’m sharper and harsher, as my patience is often tried and my coping skills are not as simple—things like bubble baths and exercise no longer being the same leisurely aspects of my life that they once were. The “me” before your birth no longer exists, but she shows up sometimes, opaque and gauzy and not completely real. She shows up and pokes at me when I listen to old music or when I laugh with your dad in the kitchen as we cook.
I’m harder and more fierce, like mothers often are, but I’m also softer in places I didn’t know could find more ease.
The world continually attempts to frost-over my heart—through lack of kindness and the sorts of things that little girls shouldn’t be aware of—and each day as I feel these ice crystals form, you melt them with your genuine, throaty laughter or with the way you slide your soft palm into mine.
The ice melts, and I’m left once again with lush, fertile space, eager for more kitchen laughter, more wooden-spoon microphone dance parties in the living room, and for the frustrations that are generally always present when raising small children.
You are still a child, but I know I’ll look back one day, as you glare crossly at me through angsty teenage eyes, and I’ll see behind them the 5-year-old girl who pounded her angry foot into the ground when mad.
I hope you never change.
I hope you grow stronger in the ways that life alters most of us, but, mostly, I hope you find suppleness to match it; this kind of softening that is gifted by love.