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A girl turns three

May 17, 2010

“She’s officially not a baby anymore,” I sigh to Dan, as if Rose is getting fitted for an IUD instead of simply turning three. Meanwhile Rose is scampering about in a pink leotard, like Baryshnikov’s stumpy and bossy sidekick, demanding “watch this guys, now watch this!”

Dan notes, accurately enough, that Rose hasn’t officially been a baby since she gave up mashed bananas two years ago. And yet I feel this way every year, like the ocean tide of my daughter is inching out a little further, while I’m on the shore grasping at the ephemeral bubbles of her childhood as they disappear in my hands.

cherry frosting and Rose's favorite side-kick edging in

But it’s not all tinged with a somber sentimentality, this getting older. Dan gave me the romantic Mother’s Day gift of 5 hours of garden work, and together we planted our potato bed while Col and Rose busied themselves building a campfire of sticks and sprouting potatoes. And sure, there were detours of snack-procuring and listening to cryptic knock-knock jokes, but the potatoes got planted, as if we were the sort of people who make a plan and simply carry it out.

And it’s hard to dwell too long in the sea of nostalgia when both kids are out of diapers, dressing themselves and eating their dandelion greens like good little citizens. And it’s not like they’ve outsourced their need for a constant adult presence, but more like they’re performing cameos in the upcoming hit “Independent Children.”

Doing her own thing

I recently visited a friend and her week old baby girl. The two of them were so serene and in love; it was like staring at the classic Madonna and child painting, except for the bag of M’n’M-studded trail mix on the coffee table that Jennifer probably would have defended with her fists. (Remember that early nursing hunger? Another friend told me she used to sleep with a bag of cashews under her pillow when she was nursing). I was so taken by this brand new life, this absolute miracle, her tiny fingers as delicate as sweet pea tendrils, her milky breath the very balm that could heal the world.

And then she cried.

A two year old and a baby: good times/hard times

And that little mewling roar ripped open the raggedy seams of my last three years. Suddenly I could remember the bouncing, the shushing, the rocking, the walking, the waiting, the watching; Rose affixed to my body like surgery stitches; Rose nursing with a hunger like she’d been thirsty for years, then shooting fountains of warm, sour milk from the “O” of her lips. Rose crying, fussing, howling. Was it gas? Hunger? Fatigue? Cue up the bouncing, shushing, walking, swaddling, nursing parent and pray that something works.

I remember getting baby Rose to sleep, finally, and then extracting my body ridiculously slowly from hers as if ripping off an enormous band-aid. Sometimes it would work, other times she’d flick open her eyes just as I was slipping off the bed as if to say “busted!” And we’d start all over again; at times I felt as trapped as a caged bird.

And now, the bedtime routine? We read one book in the rocking chair. When the book is over I lay Rose in her crib and sing her a lullaby while she holds my hand and smiles up at me. “Good night my sweet girl. I love you so much, thanks for another wonderful day,” I purr down at this insanely gorgeous child. “Good night Mama. I love you. Will you tell Daddy I love him?”

So all I’m saying is nostalgia is a funhouse mirror: it distorts and tampers. And despite my own daily urges to slow down this speeding train of life, in dwelling there too long, I may miss whatever ordinary magic is being served up in the present moment.

Ordinary magic with marshmallows

Happy birthday darling Rose.

32 Comments leave one →
  1. nataliechristensen permalink
    May 17, 2010 10:34 am

    My girl turned three this weekend too, and all week I tortured myself by looking at baby pictures. She was so cute! And round and lumpy and portable, and I got a kind of icky unscratchable itch trying to recapture those days. Nostalgia is actually a terrible feeling. But then I’d look up at the actual girl herself and realize that THIS is the girl I love now, and the current age will always be the best one.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 17, 2010 2:36 pm

      “The current age will always be the best.” Exactly. Except, um, fifteen. Or maybe my kids will be the non-rebellers that their daddy was.

  2. Kathy Smith permalink
    May 17, 2010 12:06 pm

    Dear Rachael, Another very wonderful blog! Your children are so lovely and also so lucky in the parents that they chose. It is so true that the current age will always be the best. That seems true for Grandchilden also.

  3. May 17, 2010 1:05 pm

    This is too beautiful! I’ll have to remember the funhouse mirror analogy.

  4. May 17, 2010 1:20 pm

    Lovely, vivid images of a little life zooming by. Happy birthday, Rose!

  5. May 17, 2010 1:20 pm

    Happy Birthday, little one! The journey of parenting is always bittersweet, isn’t it?

  6. May 17, 2010 2:09 pm

    isn’t it amazing to watch them become who they are – they change so quickly, it’s like watching life on fast forward! happy birthday to your little one!

  7. Peggy permalink
    May 17, 2010 2:25 pm

    Oh my gosh – Happy Birthday Rose!!!! Loved your post – and so true about the every once in a while “pang” – followed by the wake up call that you are happy that you are where you are with the kids. Hope she has a wonderful day!!

  8. Ami permalink
    May 17, 2010 2:35 pm

    Excellent writing! I share so many of those feelings! You could not have captured better the feeling that sweeps upon me when I see a mother and her infant or the dramatic change of emotion when said infant shrieks. I relate so completely to the description of the giant band-aid, professional susher-bouncer, and the mist that overcomes me when I imagine that there must be babies out there who sleep through the night and never cry…. Thank you for capturing and putting into poetry so many of my feelings and experiences, and for reminding me that I am not unique or alone on this journey of motherhood! Happy birthday!

  9. May 17, 2010 2:56 pm

    it is a funhouse mirror. you are so clever, and so right on as far as i know nostalgia also. i feel like it’s so interesting that i can glorify the past like i do, because i remember also very clearly how difficult every phase has been at the same time, and yet i glorify glorify glorify. without fail. i love your writing.

    this gets me:

    like the ocean tide of my daughter is inching out a little further, while I’m on the shore grasping at the ephemeral bubbles of her childhood as they disappear in my hands.

    that is just how i feel these days. and i don’t want to miss today either. so i have to choose, be here now, or cling to what’s gone!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 17, 2010 9:03 pm

      The glorifying must be some evolutionary adaptation. I have friends whose mothers report that they never cried as babies. I almost can’t remember Col being anything but a splendid baby.

  10. May 17, 2010 3:32 pm

    aww. Just gearing up to write my own “three-year-old” posting, so this is inspiration. Lovely, lovely.

  11. May 17, 2010 4:13 pm

    Funhouse mirror, indeed. Happy Birthday, Rose. :)

  12. May 17, 2010 6:19 pm

    Happy birthday little Rose! I agree it’s so hard to see them grow so fast, especially the baby.


  13. May 17, 2010 10:50 pm

    One of the favorite parts of my day is getting lost in your words and images they conjure.

    Lol, getting fitting for an IUD. hee hee

  14. Dan permalink*
    May 18, 2010 10:55 am

    Very good writing, Honey, and fun pictures. Thanks for sharing! I love the picture of Rosie on her Ownself Blanket

  15. May 18, 2010 6:14 pm

    You just reminded me again how much I love having children in my life! Not that I need reminding but it’s so much fun! And it goes by so darn fast.

  16. May 18, 2010 7:08 pm

    This makes me feel overwhelmed, in a very bittersweet way. Luna will be turning one year old in August, and though I know that’s still a few months away, I’m still shocked by how fast she’s growing. How much I adore those moments when she’s in my arms, feeding, content, sweet with sleepiness. Thank you for a beautiful and tender post. Happy Birthday to your lovely daughter.

  17. May 19, 2010 2:17 pm

    Happy birthday Rose!

    “And yet I feel this way every year, like the ocean tide of my daughter is inching out a little further, while I’m on the shore grasping at the ephemeral bubbles of her childhood as they disappear in my hands.” Gorgeous. I feel the same way, only you’ve painted this tiny bleakness a beautiful shade of dusk dotted with the fleeting iridescence of bubbles.

    You’re right, nostalgia is our mind’s best filter. We tend to only remember the sweet, but as you recalled those nights with Rose, I shuddered at my recollection of those same nights with my daughter too and tell myself that I’m so glad we’re past that. I’ll take the terrible two’s if it affords me more rest and more confidence in what I’m doing as opposed to those nights where everything felt like a test of our will, our strength and our love.

    However, we’d like a sibling for her down the road. So it’s not like we won’t experience that again. Joy…

  18. May 19, 2010 10:58 pm

    Your kids are so sweet togther! It shows how close they are, like best friends, in your words. Love the smokey marshmallow pic.


  19. Siana permalink
    May 19, 2010 11:20 pm

    Girl. That was beautiful.

  20. Siana permalink
    May 19, 2010 11:21 pm

    Oh yeah. I bet she loooved that cake!

  21. May 20, 2010 12:20 am

    Happy Birthday Rose! Wow – 3 huh, holy? Dressing herself, out of diapers and eating her greens? We’re not quite there on any of those things, we need Rose to come show Shayden how it’s done!

  22. kathleen permalink
    May 20, 2010 10:05 am

    Happy Birthday Rosie! You break your mama’s heart every day in an achingly sweet way, beautiful girl. Rachel–I LOVE this post. Lately when I see a pregnant woman or a mama & little bean I can hardly contain myself–I want to be part of the party. Is this what happens when out tiniest ones turn the big three? I know, in my heart, that I will not have a womb full of baby again in this lifetime, and that my heart is full & happy with the children that I have, but that dull ache persists. Will it ever go away entirely? Thanks for writing s beautifully about such tender emotions. xxoo

  23. Diane H permalink
    May 20, 2010 11:07 pm

    Rachel –
    I love that pic of Rose “doing her own thing”. Getting so independent. I remember when E first started doing that and, being in mommy-mode, I felt I had to participate or guide things. And my sister said, “Just let him alone and see what he does.”

    They can really entertain themselves so well left by themselves and it’s great to overhear what they make up or observe what they do.

    Love the blog, as always.

  24. May 21, 2010 1:26 pm

    Happy Birthday, sweet Rose! We’d send her some Texas dandelions, but I bet yours are much better. Maybe we’ll just eat some on her behalf. =>

    Hold onto those ephemeral bubbles, Mama!

  25. May 21, 2010 10:51 pm

    i just love the way you write.
    happy birthday to your little one
    and happy birth day to mama.

  26. May 22, 2010 11:24 pm

    Happy 3rd sweet girl!

  27. May 23, 2010 2:48 pm

    Happy Birthday, Rose. Three is magical; enjoy.

    Loved “doing her own thing” for its illustration of the worlds our babes create in our homes.

    Loved the writing & your reflections on this special day.

  28. May 24, 2010 6:35 pm

    “Stumpy and bossy sidekick”! You are a wonderful writer, and probably not a bad mom, either. :)

    Rose is lucky to have you.

    Happy Three Years to you both!

  29. May 27, 2010 11:53 am

    oh YES. so well said.

    as usual.

  30. Jennifer permalink
    April 11, 2011 11:53 am

    Happy Birthday Rose!!
    Awesome post, made me cry, it really struck home.

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