It is sometimes the little things that completely undo me. Today it was your pony tail; half a metre of ash blonde silk, not a kink to mar its smooth perfection. And just like that, I can picture gathering soft, fine fuzz into a hair bobble, for the very first time. How this transformed you from generic toddler into a creature that was undeniably a girl. That stumpy, wispy pony tail said so, far more eloquently than the colour pink ever could.
I loved how your pulled back hair accentuated the adorable chub of your pink cheeks, and how I couldn't stop myself from kissing you, over and over again. Do you know that I sometimes close my eyes when we embrace now, just so I can better recall the sweet, baby scent of you? Such salted caramel memories you invoke in me. Sometimes it makes my chest ache.
Now you are more likely to smell of Impulse and peppermint gum. The tickle of ‘Very Pink’ in our nostrils every morning heralds your arrival down the stairs. Your cheeks have all but lost the roundness of childhood, and I see a new bone structure emerging, one I didn't even know was there. You remind me of me, and sometimes, to my shame, this makes me sad.
Your body is changing, and this too dismays me. You are slowly growing taller; legs lengthening, feet almost the same size as my own. Where the softness of childhood is fleeing, and the angles of beauty are being carved out on your face, it is being redistributed in areas that I know you would rather not have it. Now and then, I catch glimpses of the woman you will become, and I am captivated by your beauty, though it terrifies me.
I take comfort from knowing that you are strong, my darling. Very strong. You have a deep sense of self, and an innate pride in who you are. It will protect you from much of what this world throws at you. Your moral compass will guide you, and it won't lead you astray. I don't need to tell you to stay true to who you are, because you always have done. I have been more proud of you than I could ever have dreamed possible. Your goodness radiates from inside you; such a kind, thoughtful, sensitive, human being. Your capacity for empathy astonishes me, and hints at the instinctive wisdom of your soul, a wisdom I never thought to find in one so young. The pain of others hurts you, I know. Nevertheless, I pray it always does.
You don't remember when it was just the two of us, do you? When all we had was each other, and I clung to you like a drowning woman, as I went under and wanted nothing more than oblivion, and to feel no longer. You kept me afloat; the routine of our days kept me going when I had no choice. When nappies needed changing, when bottles needed making, when small feet needed new shoes, and boredom needed to be assuaged with yet another trip to the park. Sometimes, it was grinding monotony but it kept me alive. I've never told you that before, but it did.
Later, you became my friend; my tiny companion, with your constant questions, and your love of the same book, over and over again. We bonded over make-believe and imaginary creatures who shared our world. We played endless games together, for at home I was your only playmate. Later, the little ones would come along to share your life, which meant three more willing playmates. What an inspiration and a role-model you are to them. They are very lucky to have you
As for me, I thank God for the gift of you, every single day. You were my challenge; my test. I have never done anything so bone-crushingly tiring, so frightening, so achingly hard, as becoming your mother. Many, many times I have failed. I hope you'll forgive me when I continue to do so. I know you think I'm wonderful, and that you want to be like me, but I am just waiting for the day when you discover that I'm not. That really, I'm a scared, anxious, clueless woman, who isn't half as clever as you think I am, and actually, is nowhere near as good as you.
I have led such a tiny life and in all the ways that this world measures success, I have achieved very little. I do not have a high-flying career or a string of letters after my name. There are no accolades for me, nor awards with my name written on them. I have no fancy possessions nor do I own anything of great material value.
And yet…we have everything we need and much of what we want, because we never actually want all that much anyway. I have made my choices, and I chose to live a simple life, and to pour what energy I have into raising you. I wouldn't change a thing.
I'm not such a failure, as it turns out. Look at you. Just look at you! You, my darling; my first born; my daughter. I thank you for the privilege of being your mother, and I will love you until I die.
And before you say it: Yes. I love you more.