For Larsen on Your Second Birthday

Today, like most days, you were in and out of closets, drawers, and toy baskets, but mostly you were in and out of my memory. You pulled out gloves, hats, toys, books, and on my heart strings. I sit back dazed, thinking how will I ever clean this up and also how will I make it through your birthday tomorrow with this aching deep within my chest. You’re two! You’re two…..

I knew this was coming for me as I always live in the future. I try to stay in the present, but it’s the planning for the upcoming pain that holds me back.

And I know what’s coming when it comes to you: separation.

You’re running, and talking, and doing, and being – all a little more without me for the first time in both of our lives.

And right now all I can think about is the sentimentality of it all.

I have to remind myself you’re not mine to keep. Before, I just snuggled, held, rocked, and soothed you for a good part of the day. Now, I get reminded of the widening simply by your newfound distance.

If your family lineage gives you anything, I sincerely hope you inherit a strident independence. Actually, I know you already have. I see it in the way you grab your new golf club and walk outside – determined to hit that ball, and how you can hang with Daddad without giving me another glance after we say bye, and how you run twenty feet in front of me instead of beside me.

It’s not that your growing autonomy hurts my heart. It’s just that my optimism for your freedom is tied to sadness, but also with joy. It’s the job of untangling of it all I have to welcome now. It’s a mess in there, and I have to rearrange it all so I don’t hold you back.

I understand you need me less. I know parents slowly get used to it, just as we have when we started leaving you with sitters. At first, our worry costed us our happiness when we were away from you. But then we learned to accept the distance and actually welcome it.

I’m sure this happens the same way as you grow into an adult – bite sized chunks of freedom here and there to help me prepare for those big partings.

But did the last year have to be so hard to swallow? It was a year of firsts! First birthdays, first steps, first words, first glimpses of you becoming you. And they have all unfolded before me as glorious moments to savor with no time to worry because something else was always there behind it to again delight me.  But now- you’re two.  You’re second birthday is aptly named – it just took a second and we’re here. Before we know it, I am truly holding you for the last time as we dance at your wedding.

I know, I know – I’m jumping ahead of myself, again preparing. Hopefully, with time, your gaining independence with not be anchored in my soul with such sadness.

But it’s true. I’m sad. Even our joyous memories are mixed in with sorrow that they’ve passed.

Our days together will forever be in my heart. But right now they feel heavy. Yet, I trust they will lighten into joy.

“Time will tell me what I can’t hear now,” Patty Griffin’s song reminds me.

I will take those moments of bouncing frog on the sheet, of running out the front door to catch a glimse of the trash truck, of rubbing your little round toes as I hold you close.  I’ll cherish those days of hearing,”Momma, Momma, Come!” and “Okay” for the rest of my life.

And maybe that’s what I’m afraid of – all these tender, fleeing moments are just that- here for a second, eluding my grasp, toying with my soul, wondering if I will long for these days again for the rest of my life? Are these our best days together, Larzy?

Why can’t I enjoy them today instead of preparing to miss them tomorrow?

As I compose myself for your birthday tomorrow, I want to be free from this burden. I want to hold you, and dance with you, and not wonder if today is one of the last times I get to be your universe.

As I think of your second birthday and how time elapsed quicker these two years than the rest of my life, I will make time and my mind shut up and be still.

I will breathe in the little bit of baby smell you still have, and it will still be a wonder. I will let you grow, and I will release this intense desire to hold you forever and just let you be.

I’m learning too, Larsen. Just like the closet and drawers you were playing in today, you pull out these emotions from me, throwing them all over. You’ve made me think about these jumbled feelings – being anxious and gladdened.

But in particular, you’ve made me realize I have to embrace the joy within the sadness. I have to find ways to reorganize myself, deciding what serves me and what doesn’t, what helps you grow and what doesn’t.

And while I am constantly worried I won’t have enough time to put things back in their place before you’re on to the next thing, I am deliriously happy – I am your mother. I am a proud, rejoicing mother of a two-year-old.

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