My precious Elizabeth Ann,
The other night as I came up the stairs and headed to my room to go to bed for the night, I heard that oh so familiar "I'm-not-whining-I'm legitimately-scared" heart-wrenching cry that would make any mother drop everything and run to her baby, as you cried out, "Momma! Momma!"
I stepped into my room to put all of my things down before I came to you. As I walked back out into the hallway, I saw you standing there in your doorway wearing your new princess dress instead of your pajamas! I saw your whole body jump as you realized someone was standing in front of you and you hadn't realized it was me. I came to you and picked you up. When I did, you wrapped both arms tightly around my neck and both legs around my waist as if you were afraid I would disappear if you let go. You buried your face into me and just cried.
I laid you down on your bed and sat down next to you. I asked you what was wrong, and you said you were scared. I asked what you were scared of though I already knew the answer. It's the same every time. "Da bad guys." I told you that God is with us and that He will take care of us and that you don't have to be afraid. You said another all too familiar phrase "and Daddy will kill the bad guys."
Then I prayed with you, that God would keep us safe and give us sweet dreams and that He would help you not to be afraid. I asked you if that made you feel any better, and you told me it did. However, when I switched positions to keep my leg from falling asleep, you immediately grabbed for my shirt and begged me, "Don't leave me Momma!"
I told you I would stay with you until you fell asleep. So I laid down on the bed between you and Jennifer. You got sleepy again very quickly just knowing I was there with you. Somewhere in that world between wakefulness and being fully asleep, you muttered under your breath, "I not a baby anymore. I a big girl."
You're right of course. You're not a baby anymore. You're a big girl. You don't wear diapers. You don't use a pacy. You don't need a bib or a bottle. You can even do pretty well with a regular cup instead of a sippy cup. You know how to dress yourself. You put your dishes in the sink after you eat and you are learning how to fold laundry. You know your ABC's and you can count to 18. You have "Jesus Loves Me", "Jesus Loves the Little Children", and the Fruit of the Spirit memorized. You help feed Samantha her bottle, and you teach Jennifer how to do things you've already learned. You are a big girl.
However, in my mind I'll always see the girl who thought she was ugly if she wasn't wearing a dress. I'll always see the girl who thought momma was "so gorgeous" even in her pajamas. I'll see the girl who wanted to marry daddy and go on a date with him because he was "handsome". I'll see the girl who got excited about a princess dress and crown and fake clip-on earrings. I'll see the girl who could make anyone laugh just with her dancing. I'll see the girl who loved her sunglasses so much she wore them inside church as she walked to her class. I'll see the girl who got frustrated as she tried to learn to say the letter "L". I'll see the girl who had an addiction to her pacy that was almost unhealthy. I'll see the girl who had bad dreams almost every night. I'll see the girl who, because of those bad dreams, slept in my bed almost every night from the very beginning. I'll see the girl who was afraid of the dark from the very first night we brought her home from the hospital. I'll see the girl who welcomed home a sister and was so jealous she kicked her in the head. I'll see the girl who loves that little sister and says "her my best friend". I'll see the girl who welcomed home a second little sister and loves her more than life. I'll see the girl who visited that second sister in the NICU and repeatedly kissed her on the head and whispered in her ear "It'll be okay. I love you." I'll see the girl whose first cries were more of a squeak than an actual cry. I'll see the girl that I had to leave every day for a year and a half while I went to work. I'll see the girl who came and sat with me every time I cried and brought me a kleenex for "you eyes". I'll see the girl who stole my heart in a matter of seconds. I'll see the girl who made me a Mommy.
So, Elizabeth, to you, you're no longer a baby. To you, you're a big girl. But to me? Well, the words I whispered to you as you drifted off to sleep the other night, with your head on my stomach and your fist firmly clenching my sweatshirt and your sweaty curls plastered to your forehead, will be true forever:
"I'll love you forever. I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."
They may not be my original words. I may have stolen them from a book, but they could not be more true.
Happy birthday (a few days late) BABY girl. I love you more than words can express, and no matter how old you get and how many things you learn to do, you'll always be my baby.