My youngest daughter turned four last month and, as she stood there, proud as punch, blowing out the candles on her unicorn cake, my heart surged with a thousand mixed emotions...
You see, she’s my baby.
And while she’s the first to raise her voice if I dare refer to her as such, when I kiss her soft cheeks or look into her huge eyes, I still see that snuggly newborn who lay her head on my chest and curled her tiny fingers around mine and cooed like a tiny slice of sunshine.
And I can’t believe I am already here.
Life with small children is crazy, relentless and frustrating. It is. It can leave you in tatters with an aching exhaustion so deep, it gnaws into your bones. To glorify it in its entirety would be to downplay its truth.
But there’s also a magic to life with small children.
Take yesterday, for example. The sun was shining, the air crisp with the scent of autumn, and my four-year-old and I wandered out to the garden.
She started scooping big, crunchy leaves and, when the pile was nice and plump, dived into it and ‘hid’.
Each time she popped her head up I acted surprised and this caused her such great delight, we did it again and again.
Watching her play in the leaves, I could see her sheer wonder and excitement.
And at that moment, swept up in her world, I could feel her smile stretching all the way across from her lips onto my own.
Now if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
The truth is, I’ve bathed in that magic, luxuriated in it, filled up my emotional cup again and again, year after year, as I’ve had teeny-tiny feet pattering their way across my floor.
But now, as my youngest turns four, I’m feeling a keen sense of loss that, one day ever so soon, I will no longer be living with such enchantment in my world.
Because a four-year-old has a foot in each world; one part early years, one part latter. At times I find her spontaneously singing, telling me adorable stories that don’t always make sense and snuggling up to me like a warm, excitable puppy.
At other times I see how close she is to shedding her small-child skin and stepping deeper into the more grown-up world.
Don’t get me wrong.
There’s a part of me that’s itching for her to grow up. In many ways, life is so much easier with older children. It doesn’t take them a thousand years to brush their teeth, for example, and they never fling themselves on the floor in frustration because I forgot to give them water in the blue cup.
Plus there’s a richness to my relationships with my seven and nine-year-old children. Talking to them, listening to how their incredible minds think, and admiring what wonderful people they are brings such an overpowering sense of love and awe.
But moving on to that next stage of childhood also means leaving behind the early years, with all its intrinsic magic.
One day – and it’s looming far too soon for my liking – my little girl will no longer be so little, and these dazzling years will be but a memory.
So for now, when my four-year-old looks at me with her great big brown eyes and laughs like the world is an utter delight, and oozes a joy so infectious it penetrates my own heart, I’ll continue standing here, soaking it all up.
Because life with a small child really is magical.
And, like all kinds of magic, I know that one day it will all vanish into thin air.
Words: Evelyn Lewin | Image: Julie Adams