Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? Everyone says it goes fast, this parenting gig, but every so often time seems to accelerate beyond “fast,” leaving me in the dust as my child speeds ahead to another stage of independence. This is the story of one of those accelerated moments, from this past August.
Climbing the stairs, I could feel my clammy hands slipping along the railing. Natalie charged ahead of me, feet pounding each stair with a metallic clank as she ascended. “Be careful!” I called to her. “Wait for me!” My brave girl, eager to reach the landing at the top of the slide, appeased me by slowing her pace a bit.
We were going to pile onto the burlap sack together, together fly down the slide above the noise of the fairway scene. I didn’t know it would be the last time with her tucked safely in my lap, that she would be a braver girl by the time she reached the bottom of the slide. This new girl would clamber up the stairs alone, heaving the sack over her tiny shoulder, and joyously fly solo to the base of the slide.
If I had known how much she was going to grow up in those seconds, I would have soaked in the climb. I would have held her closer as we squished together on that scratchy sack, breathing in the air high above the crowd. Instead, at the top, we rushed to get seated, Natalie immediately digging her heels into the hard plastic of the slide to give us a nudge over the first lip of the ride. My arms and legs wrapped around her body, keeping her safe from becoming airborne (my paranoid Mama’s Brain convinced that my child’s body could defy the laws of physics by accomplishing such a feat). She wasn’t scared, though (despite the shriek that rang from her mouth to my ears as we descended); she was elated. We slid to the edge of the slide’s base, my knuckles white on clasped fingers until we had officially slowed to a stop.
“Again!” Natalie yelled, breaking free from my grasp. “I’m going to go by myself, Mommy, okay?” Her eyes were already fixed at the top of the slide as she bent down to grab the burlap sack. It was decided without me, and not because I was ready. My baby girl, my most precious creation, was going to feel the thrill of that giant slide all on her own. Her body grew smaller as she made her way up the stairs, and I was pleased to see her holding tight to the rail. A lump formed in my throat, my mouth hot, as she reached the top and I saw her ask the carnival worker for help settling on to the sack.
Just like that, she was coming towards me again, scream-laughing as the wind whipped her hair around her face. Beaming, she reached the bottom. “Again, Mommy?” she pleaded.
How could I say no? “Do you want me to come with you?” I asked her hopefully.
“No, I can do it,” was her reply. And she did.