How Do Parents Do This?

We have a fenced in backyard and last summer, I remember commenting to people that it wouldn’t be long before Clara would be coming and going through the sliding back doors while I did whatever needed doing in the house.

That time has come, brought on prematurely by the unseasonably warm weather and it’s unsettling for me to be at the stove, making dinner, and to hear the door behind me slide open. And in she walks, my daughter, to find a teddy bear or a doll to join her on her adventure, or to show me a new rock she found. Today, dressed in her plaid shorts and t-shirt, she added a knit hat, her sunglasses and a pair of bright pink slippers and off she went. Slide went the door. It was a humid day, and the evening called for thunder showers that had passed so I thought nothing of it at first when Clara came to the door, a funny expression on her face and said, “BRRRrrRrr! Cold!”

“It’s not cold,” I told her, because it was anything but, and walked over to the door regardless because she was rubbing her arms, still looking quizzical, still saying, “BrrrRrrr!”

It had started to shower again, a light, almost summer like rain (in March). A new experience for her, to be out in the rain, willingly (we’ve been caught in enough of it unwillingly).

I brought her inside, hugged her, rubbed her dry. It’s been a busy week for her, of learning new things and making new friends. At Costco, she looked at the man seated at the table next to us, noticed his hot dog and exclaimed, “Hot dog party!” Because each and every hot dog is cause for a celebration, a hot dog party.

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Costco also has dog houses. Hidden off in the corner, where nobody ventures except us, walking the perimeter of the store to avoid the crowds.

She’s obsessed with wanting to drive the car, and stands at the drivers door, waiting (and posing) as if she seriously thinks I’m just going to hand her the keys and let her take it for a spin.

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This is her now, at two. I can’t imagine her at sixteen, with a driver’s permit in hand, and yet, when I look at these photos, it’s not so hard.

(And ignore our ghetto walkway, the garden was torn up and plans to redo the walkway put on hold last summer when redoing my bathroom took precedence when I left the province).

At the park, just yesterday, she began, out of the blue, to climb this:

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And climb it she can, unassisted, but knowing very well that she’s only allowed when I’m standing behind her, my arms encircling her just in case she falls (call it helicopter parenting if you must, she’s two. When she gets to the last rung, and it’s a bit of a stretch to step onto the platform leading to the slide she throws herself across the expanse of air where she lands, and using her hands in the holes on the platform floor she pulls herself the rest of the way.

Each and every time, I have a minuscule heart attack but I don’t show it, I don’t want her to be afraid of anything, not if I can help it.

And then, tonight, as I was putting her to bed, she announced her need to use the “potty”, and, not one to discourage her from using the toilet, off we went to the bathroom where I sat patiently with her until I could no more. “I’ll be in your room,” I told her. “Let me know when you’re done.” I was half-joking, she hasn’t really used it yet but then, a few minutes later she called to say she was done and I checked (just in case) and oh dear god, she had, both things, and I became one of those parents that get excited by their kid’s use of the potty.

In one week, I’ve caught sight of the many, many ways she’s growing up and tonight especially, while watching a tv show dealing with death and dying and how short life is, I thought about Clara and how fast everything is happening, so much of it passing us by.

I wished, in those few moments of timely awareness, that we could be like this forever. Her, tiny and perfect and innocent and unharmed and me, young enough and healthy enough to keep up with her and so fiercely protective and able to keep her safe. And I asked myself, how do parents do this? How go they let go, give them the freedom to grow and become their own, make mistakes and inevitably get hurt?

My heart hurts, thinking about it. It hurts.

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