Caitlin is seven today. Just like that. As if the months of sleepless nights never happened. As if the months on the couch at two am were someone else's life.
She is seven. As if she woke up one morning and suddenly was big. Didn't need a bottle to keep her quiet. Didn't need a diaper changed to start the day. So big in fact that some mornings I find her in her bed happily with the iPad, having been awake long before me. But on some special mornings I still wake up with her in my bed. Surprised, because she doesn't even wake me anymore. She crawls in like it's the most natural thing in the world, because it is.
She is seven and really too big for my lap. We barely fit in the same chair anymore. So now she sits next to me on the couch. All those days of holding her while she napped, because she wouldn't nap any other way are just memories. Sadly, I used to hate those days. I'd spend the time worrying about the dishes and the laundry. Sitting with her in my lap thinking of all the things I should be doing. Oh, how I long for those days. To just sit with her with her little head on my chest. The look of pure delight when she woke up to discover it was me who was holding her. It was the only quiet and calm we'd get in those early hectic days of motherhood. I realize now that there was nothing I should have been doing, because I was doing it. I was holding my precious baby, who one day was going to wake up and not need that comfort anymore. Some days I wish I could go back and really enjoy those moments, and really be present in them.
But today I wake and she is seven. Instead of sleepless nights we steal early moments together in the mornings before little sister wakes. We watch silly cartoons that speak to our dark senses of humor. We stay up late and watch re-runs of Modern Family after everyone goes to bed. We sneak off to early dinners just the two of us, reminiscing about the days when it was just the two of us for hours on end. Today I know that the sleepless nights and the two am feedings are really behind us. And the early struggles of motherhood are finally behind me. I'm better prepared to be her mother, today. After seven years, I'm finally ok with who I am as a mother. And I owe it all to my beautiful girl who is seven.
Motherhood doesn't get any easier, I think we just get better at it. Never perfect and never precise, but we learn from our mistakes. We have new adventures, but it doesn't mean they are easier. They are just different, and I have learned from past mistakes so I'm just as different too. My guilt is still at times overwhelming, but I think that will always be the case. As my best friend says, "Guilt means you care".
But we made it. Caitlin and I, we made it to seven. There are more smiles and plenty of sleep here. We cuddle and share secrets. We bake cookies at random times, and look at Pinterest together. One day, the marvels of being seven will be memories, so today I will cherish this time. I will be present, and welcome every distraction. There is nothing else I should be doing. Today we are seven together.