This morning I sat by the window in the big yellow chair in my bedroom as Ella bounced up the steps. I told her to get dressed, so she skipped to her room and then she skipped back to me to tell me she likes the outfit I chose for her — lots of maroon and orange because today is gameday you know. So I told her to skip on back and please get dressed. So she did. She talked the entire time. This girl has an enormous amount of words per day allotted to her.
When she was done getting dressed she bounced into my room again, and I told her to brush her hair. So she gets her hairbrush and stands in her doorway where I can see her, and she sings and she twirls her brush around. There is no brushing of the hair going on whatsoever. And I just look at her.
She called me her hero at school. When her teacher told me that, I smiled, and I looked back over my shoulder at her sitting in her little chair at her little desk quietly working on her assignment. And I felt ashamed. I am so much less than a hero.
This morning at 4:36 am Ella had a really really scary dream. She has a really really scary dream every night. She comes and wakes me, every night, and usually I give her a hug and tell her it was just a bad dream, and tell her to think about Poppy or collecting seashells or picking flowers or something as I tuck her back in, stroke her hair and kiss her forehead. But last night I said something dumb like “Oh Ella, you have a really really scary dream every night” and tucked her back in with not much more than a quick hug. And then as I climbed back into my own bed I remembered the whole hero thing and felt pretty crumby because that wasn’t very heroic — how I just acted. So I went back in and hugged her and asked her if she was warm enough and told her I loved her.
Someday she’ll realize I’m not a hero at all…
So this morning I sat there watching her twirl her hairbrush for a moment. “She is so easily distracted” I thought, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her…bouncing and singing and twirling. And that snaggle tooth of hers and her hello kitty glasses that always slip down on her tiny freckled nose…my God, she is precious. Honestly, maybe I’m beginning to like that distracted part of her. It won’t last forever…
But right now? Right now she has the ability to completely dismiss from her mind anything at any given time (homework, chores, hair-brushing) and instead tell me a joke or sing me a song, or spin and twirl around the kitchen, or show me how fast she can run, or how loose her tooth is. When will she lose that? When will she become organized by lists and check boxes and responsibilities?
My guess is that it’s about the same time that she chooses a new hero.
When that time comes, I will have wasted all of these years, these moments, and I will miss this stuff that — to be very honest here — kind of drives me crazy right now. And the worst part is that I will have been, like a fool, wishing for it all along.
One day I will watch her as she walks. She won’t bounce or spin or skip or twirl, and I’ll try to remember the last time I saw her spin, or skip, or anything other than just plain old walk. And I’ll know then that it’s too late. It has already happened.