I’m not sure when it quite hit me that you’re growing up. I think I’ve been getting little hints, here and there, for a long time now. Maybe it’s the way you’ve started arguing with me — dogged, relentless, as if you KNEW you were right (even if you knew you were wrong) and even the Great and Terrible Daddy couldn’t sway you. Maybe it’s how I don’t have to babysit you anymore to make sure you get your homework done (though getting it done RIGHT may still be an issue hehe).
I’ve seen it coming for a long time, but this morning (yesterday morning for you; Daddy’s on night shift hehe) it really hit home. You were on your way to Summer Camp — a whole week without Caleb and Madi, true, but also without Mommy and Daddy. You were loaded up in the front seat of the Jeep, with your brother and sister in the back. Yall were fussing at each other over the headrest of your seat. I came around to give you one last kiss before you left… and you smiled.
You knew what you were in for. You went to camp last year, and while you loved the experience, you weren’t entirely displeased to see me and Mommy rolling up, ready to collect you. You’d missed us, at least a little bit. I’m sure of it. You had to have.
Now here you were, one year later, bound for a repeat performance — minus the entire family and everything — and you were smiling. Madi had said not even 30 seconds earlier, “I already miss Livy”, but you were smiling.
How does that happen?
I can still remember the day you were born, clear as a bell. I remember Mommy being in labor with you, trying to deliver you in her room, only to be taken into the operating room and “unzipped” so the doctors could get you out safely. I remember holding you for the first time, and the sensation of everything, the whole world, fading into the background as I looked into the barely-opened eyes of this little life that I had helped create. I almost didn’t hear your Mommy, asking to see you. I’m sorry about that (well, not really) but for a moment, there was nothing else in the universe except Daddy and Livy.
And suddenly, there we were, 10 years later, T minus six days before I could be with you again… and you were smiling.
Would you miss me? Of course you would. I’m sure of it. You’d have to. But you were smiling just the same.
I’m sure you’ll come home with a camera full of memories, and you’ll tell of your adventures with fire in your eyes, and you’ll pepper Mommy and me with questions of “How long until Summer Camp next year?” And we’ll have the whole year together until that time comes back around. And then you’ll leave again. And again after that.
What hurts me so much isn’t the fact that you’re gone away for a time — T minus five days now. What hurts me most is the smile, your eyes so wide and full of the future. To you, the future looks like more summer camp, but I’ve been there in that front passenger seat, smiling that smile and taking in the sights. I know what the future looks like, and it’s one that you don’t yet realize is out there… the one where you go away again, this time for a heckuva lot longer than a week.
That one’s only eight years away now. More than half of my time raising you is gone, and you even don’t know it. But I do. And it both thrills me and fills me with dread.
Maybe that’s why that smile hurts me so much, because I’m having such a hard time keeping mine. But yours is a smile that I love to see, regardless, so keep smiling it, just as wide as you can. Just stay my little girl just a little longer.