My little baby Gert entered the 3-5 year demographic over the weekend, and thus let it be known that she no longer has any use for plastic, baby-friendly bowls, nighttime training pants, or toothbrushing assistance.
She cried when her new roller skates wouldn't let her go as fast as her 9-year-old sister, and again when the loops on her tennis shoes wouldn't fold into neat, bunny-eared bows.
After the excitement of her party, after all her favorite cousins and aunts and uncles had gone home and the sugar was wearing off, I caught a glimpse of Gert sitting on her Sit-n-Spin in the living room in front of the TV, gazing up at her new Care Bears DVD and twisting slightly, absentmindedly from side to side. Then suddenly, she looked down on the floor next to her and patted a small pile of blankets. "Aw, it's o-tay honey," she told it, and I realized one of her new dolls was apprehensively watching the video with her.
The only babies in our house anymore are the ones Gert takes care of, and that makes me more than a little sad. I don't necessarily miss the messy, exhausted, nervous parts of parenting a baby. I don't necessarily want another one, or wish that I could relive the entire thing with either of the girls. It's just that I see Gert being such a kid, and she's so beautiful and perfect in each and every moment that it hurts, like looking into a bright light and never wanting to look away.
When people told me that being a parent is hard, I thought they were talking about messy, exhausting, nerve-wracking things. I didn't know it would be so hard to let go of each perfect moment while you're reaching to grasp at the next one. Children shed them like scales and laugh at us for trying to hold each one so close.