My Baby, My Child

My daughter Hannah is 5 years old. This age is like a crossroads between babyhood and childhood. She can do so much for herself – get dressed, put on her shoes, get a drink of water. Yet there is still so much she can’t do – cook a meal, read a book, floss her teeth. Sometimes it seems as if these two factions are at war in her. She alternates between fierce independence and extreme dependence, between wanting space and refusing to let go.

Because Hannah is my first, I forget how little she really still is. I expect too much of her. Compared to her brother, who is not yet 2, she seems so capable and grown-up. She does not require my constant intervention to keep her alive. She doesn’t smear her food on the walls or wear diapers. She has an impressive vocabulary and is socially adept. She knows what’s what.

Gathering 'nature' in her box

There are moments, though, when I see her little-ness. It flits across my eyes and I am struck by its presence. I hold her wrist and it feels impossibly tiny and fragile. I watch her sleep and see a baby-ness in her face. Really, still? Is she still so small as that? Yes, she is.

Tonight Jon and I will attend kindergarten orientation with Hannah. My mind is wandering back to my own elementary school years. On that playground, the kindergartners seemed so small. I look at my daughter with those eyes, and my throat catches. Is she ready to tackle school? Is she old enough to hold her position on the playground, to navigate the social maze? I don’t know. I see my baby, the one who was born too early, and so very small. I want to cling to her and not let go.

Out for a walk

The truth is, from Hannah’s earliest moments I preferred to think of her as big. When her weight had dropped below 5 pounds in the NICU, I declared her big-ness. As soon as we got her home, I started dressing her in ‘real’ clothes. Because she was big, and strong, and deserving of an actual outfit. Hannah’s smallness was something I dismissed altogether, because I needed her to be OK. I needed her to be big.

Of course, she is OK. She was OK then, too. Even so, I am disarmed by her smallness. It gives my mother-heart pause. Can my wishing, alone, make her big enough to face the world? And if it can’t, what then?

Playing under a tree

The fears tumble over me, and through me. They spill out of my chest and across the floor. The truth is, there are no answers. Life is messy, and not always good. I don’t know how my daughter will handle it. Little or big, it’s not easy for any of us. So I clasp her tiny wrist, and kiss her tiny hand, and will that what I have given her will be big enough. Please, please let it be big enough.

PS – Have you seen my cloth diaper video? I made it for By Nature‘s Why Cloth Diapers contest. But more than that, it also showcases my fabulous new video intro. I have plans to do one or two videos a month. If you want to keep it real with my suburban videos, check the latest in my sidebar under ‘watch me’, or visit my YouTube channel.

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  1. Tina Kurki Leavitt says:

    You're a great writer, Amber!

  2. Amber Krause Strocel says:

    Aw, thank you, Tina!

  3. Nice video! I like the jazzy music and the titles too. Good luck with the contest. The prize is fantastic.

    I knew the moment I saw the title of today’s post I’d feel all weepy at the end and I was right. Growing up posts are always so bittersweet.
    .-= Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)´s last post ..Encounter of the Bunny-kind: Wednesday of Few Words =-.

  4. Oh. I know.

    This was a beautiful thing to read first thing in the morning. Thank you.
    .-= clara´s last post ..Where It’s At =-.

  5. When Eve was born, Angus seemed incredibly big to me — he was helpful, he was an actual resource, he was a person compared to this little scrap of babyness in my arms. Now I look at pictures of him standing beside her, in his feet pajamas, and he still looks like a baby. The perspective is so inconstant.
    .-= allison´s last post ..****************Friday Sorta Funny =-.

  6. Yeah, me too. Sometimes I hear other moms with wee ones snapping at their eldest daughters and I think eeeeeesh. And then I hear it creep into my own voice sometimes and I’m like yeee-eeeeesh. She’s still soooooooo little. She just seems big in comparison to the under 2 foot-tall crowd she hangs with.
    .-= Betsy´s last post ..Three Bundles of Whoop-Ass =-.

  7. I met 2 of my life-long friends (twins) at K registration.!
    .-= abbie´s last post ..Real Sustainable Food =-.

  8. I feel this way about my own daughter, so I totally get it. And let me just say in that middle photo she looks the “splitting” image of you and Jon, with your smile.
    .-= Melodie´s last post ..Madonna and Child-Like Paintings Are Obscene Too? =-.

  9. This is a wonderful post Amber 🙂 It’s amazing how our perspectives change as our children grow. I keep thinking of V as SUCH a big girl and expect so much more from her..but I shouldn’t. She’s not even 4 after all 🙂

    I’m still really good friends with someone I met in kindergarten.
    .-= Carrie´s last post ..(somewhat) Wordless Wednesday: So pretty- garden glory =-.

  10. Kindergarten will be exciting! My girl starts JK next fall. It feels like a step away, growing up, but I am pretty sure she still needs me, Just like your girl does.
    .-= Capital Mom´s last post ..Shoe =-.

  11. While kindergarden is a ways off for us, I too worry about how my daughter handles social situations. I agree with you that the world can be harsh with messy situations . . . I want to protect my little girl, who I continue to see as little because she’s always been the smallest among her friends, from harm but I know that I have to let her make her way, handle her own situations, and learn. That said, the next time she is in a situation where I observe violence or bullying, I am going to step in (this is a little off topic but is a subject I hope to write about soon).

    Oh, and I’ve been told that age 5 is just wonderful. Enjoy her, 🙂

  12. Oh what a lovely reminder of what’s important!
    It’s funny, I was looking at my oldest son just this morning, wondering at how big he was getting (13), and at how he was still so much a child. I love him so much that my heart bursts with it! Every day is a complex combination of wondering if I am giving him enough freedom to grow, and wondering if I am protecting him enough from danger.
    .-= *pol´s last post ..We were there! =-.

  13. Oh Amber I know how you feel! I felt a lot more apprehensive about Madelyn attending school than I do about Tegan. However, due to Tegan’s November birthday – and the fact that we start JK at age 4 in Ontario – Tegan will start school at 3 years of age. Oh my heart! She is a much more outgoing chid than Madelyn though so that assures me. I’ll be thinking of you the first week of September.

  14. My daughter’s almost 5, and my son’s 2.5 – so I totally relate to what you say about forgetting they’re still so little at 5…! I struggle with it quite a bit — with my expectations of my daughter — and she’s not the most mature of 5-year-olds either (partly because of her brother), so it’s hard….
    .-= Haley-O (Cheaty)´s last post ..New Nephew, New Dog, NEW JOB: The Deets =-.

  15. I’ve had so many of the same big and little thoughts about my 3 year old lately. I can totally relate to this post. I expect so much from her because she wants to be and do things on her own, but then I always have to remind myself just how young she is and how big and new the world still is to her…..This ‘parenting thing’ sure does keep us on our toes!
    Enjoy the night with your ‘big little girl’ as you go off to explore what the world of kindergarden will be like!
    .-= Kristin´s last post ..Adventures in Camping =-.

    • Oh, and nice video! We are also a user of cloth diapers! Talking about Poo made me giggle! Poop certainly does happen and its not fun with cloth diapers, but it feels good to do good for our earth in many ways! ; )
      .-= Kristin´s last post ..Adventures in Camping =-.

  16. Oh Amber, I feel this tight inside of me too. Why must they grow up, and yet while growing still seem so young and vulnerable. Will that feeling of needing to protect them ever be still? I don’t think so and secretly I hope not. But it is so bittersweet. My guy will start in September too, and I just can’t believe the day is here.
    .-= Christine LaRocque´s last post ..Life happened =-.

  17. Beautiful….

    When my baby boy was born I cried for how suddenly grown up my tiny baby girls appeared…. it was like it happened over night and I somehow missed it while I was busy having a baby.

    It happened again when they started school this year. Despite the fact that they are both tall and oh so capable in so many ways… there was still that moment when something changed in my head.

    Surely they were those two teeny tiny babies in NICU just yesterday… where had I been all those years while they had been busy growing? How had is snuck up on my so…. bitter sweet….

  18. Once again, you’ve ignited my premature nostalgia. *sniff* I had a mini-meltdown the other day over Theo’s 10-month birthday! I recovered. Two more months and I’ll make stick.
    .-= harriet Fancott´s last post ..My Big Fat Multiracial Family =-.

  19. We had a major behavior issue today, and I’m finding I need to step back and really think about what’s age appropriate for a five year old. Yes, he did something that was wrong, but is it really realistic for me to expect he wouldn’t behave that way. I think I’m just as much at fault for expecting him to be a little adult, because he can be so capable sometimes. Sigh.
    .-= Lady M´s last post ..Raising Polite Little Hoodlums =-.

  20. Very sweet post. Little or big is often a matter of perspective. My youngest always seems so little to me!
    I managed to see your diaper video (took me forever, it’s slow connection day it seems), did you do the whole thing yourself? It’s very nice and professional! How about adding some infos on where to get cloth diapers, possibly online? Just an idea, as in this country, for instance, the last time I looked for them (a few years back), I just couldn’t find any!
    .-= Francesca´s last post ..Friday’s flowers ~ commemoration bouquet =-.

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  1. […] Jacob was born was, “She’s so big!” The kid who only 24 hours earlier had been my baby was now the big sister, and that changed things. Whether she was ready for it or not, I began to rely on Hannah’s […]

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