Slipping Through My Fingers

Slipping through my fingers all the time
Schoolbag in hand she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile

 

She stands at the doorway of her room, humming a tune I haven’t heard of before.  “Mommy, I have packed”, she calls out even as she realizes I am watching her from across the hallway. It is the day of her school sleepover and in an attempt to minimize the endless “Is it time to leave yet?” I have asked her to go and pack.  I watch with a little flutter in my heart as she walks over to her cupboard and picks clothes for the night and the next morning.  And remembers to pack her toothbrush and toothpaste and hairbrush.  “Mummmm where is my cream in case my skin starts getting a rash?” Who is this little person who knows so much about herself? What happened to my little girl who wanted me to do everything for her because it was “funner that way”? Even as I answer her questions with a sense of wonder in my voice, she spots her stuffed dog Scruffy behind me and lets out a war cry. “Scrufffffffffffffffffffffy, we are going to a sleepover, in my bag now boy, NOW”. Old enough to go on a sleepover and young enough to talk to her stuffed dog. One foot in the door, childhood waiting inside a sheltered room even as a young girl with shining eyes beckons to her from the outside.

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Do I really see what’s in her mind

Each time I think I’m close to knowing

She keeps on growing

Slipping through my fingers all the time

 

“Can you give me money for the book fair?”, she asks one morning.  After a lengthy treatise on the value of money, I hand her money and tell her I expect to see some change.  “They don’t give change in my school”, she wisely informs me. “I am sure they do, I am presuming this book fair is run by people who can do basic maths”, I retort. “Mommy, what does change have to do with basic maths?”. I sigh and try to have a logical conversation with a person whose listening capacity matches that of a goldfish on a bad day. “Change, A, I need to see the change.  And please, ask someone to help you if you cannot work out how much you owe”. “Are dollars the same as cents?” I let it go and try not to laugh.

She comes home with a book in the evening and I am informed that she got a $1 back which has been placed in her lunch box(???!!!) because today was a “give change back day”. 

“Who went with you to buy the book?”

“No one”

“What do you mean by no one? Where was Dana , or your other best friends?”

“They all went home Mommy. I went in the after school care time”

“Didn’t you ask anyone to go with you, baby?”

“It was across the hall Mommy, I asked the teacher if I could go and buy a book and she said ok”

“Oh sweetheart, did you feel bad?”

“About what Mommy? I took my money and walked over to the hall, picked my book and took it to the counter? Mommy?”

For some unfathomable reason, I feel like crying. WHEN did she grow up? When did my baby learn to take the money from her bag and walk across to a book fair (ok, so it was at school but this is supposed to be my little girl), browse through books and buy the one she wants?

“Did you feel bad that you had to do this on your own? What thoughts were you thinking baby?”

She looks at me with her eyes shining, her pony tails framing her perfect smile, “I was thinking of what book to buy. I was so excited. And I was thinking about Dana and whether she would buy the same book tomorrow”

She is ok with growing up. Why am I so overcome then? Why do I feel like something just slipped through my fingers? I hold her tight even as she wriggles out of my grasp. Again, the feeling of something eluding me overwhelms me even as I know that the babyhood of the past is now a firm memory. And this little person, sure and full of smiles, telling me that it is a new world we both are in.

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture

And save it from the funny tricks of time

Slipping through my fingers

 

I am packing her school bag after spending the day with her at her sports day. “Please don’t go back to work”, she pleads, “Take me home with you”. I sit down in front of her, on the tracks, and tell her why I cannot take her back with me. But meetings and a conference call don’t mean much to a six year old wearing house colours even as the other girls are being picked up by their mums. “I will be really good, but take me home”.

Guilt is a powerful thing, it makes you think you can handle the future better than the present. So I promise her treats for the weekend and lunches in the mall even as she tells me that all she wants is to spend the afternoon at home. I carry a whingeing and crying A to her class teacher who is she staying with till the after school care opens. There are tears and silent glares at me even as she packs her bag with great pretend sniffs. And then her friend Nicci tells her that she is staying back too. And all of a sudden, I get a giant hug. “Don’t you have to go Mommy? I will be fine with Nicci and Mrs K”.  I keep turning back to wave as I walk back to my car. I see her on the swings and I can hear her chuckles even as I drive away. And again the familiar feeling of dealing with someone young enough to want Mommy but someone old enough to find comfort in a friend and in familiar surroundings assuages me.

I take her out for lunch the next day as promised. It is the stuff perfect moments are made of, as we share hot fries and I allow her a sip of my coffee and we share our favourite pasta.  She leans back in her chair and the golden sunshine make her eyes look almost honey coloured as they sparkle like cut diamonds. She leans over and takes my face in her tiny hands “Look at all these people around me Mommy”, she says, “They don’t even know how happy and lucky I am, to be here with you today”.

And I know then that time does freeze even as it waltzes around us in an endless charade. And as she slips away from my fingers, she leaves a memory in my hand…

I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I’m losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl……..