It’s such a little word. My first baby turned six.
On her fifth birthday I remember looking at my hand, five fingers spread out in front of my eyes, and thinking, “A whole handful of years have gone by since she got here. I only have one more hand before her childhood is almost over.” I had a helpless feeling of time slipping through those five fingers, my powerlessness to stop it almost overwhelming.
A year later, I know something I didn’t know then.
I see mums on social media posting pictures of their sleeping babies with captions like “Please don’t ever grow up”, and I smile because on her last birthday, that was me. But now, thanks to the six-year-old in the house, I know this: what’s still to come is going to be even better than anything that’s gone before.
Because in the last 12 months of parenting her, it has been.
In the last 12 months she went from the small girl who sat in the trolley when we went shopping to the smart, capable young lady who fetches the courgettes and weighs them on the scale, punching in the numbers and deftly spinning the bag as she attaches the bar coded sticker.
She knows where the coffee pods are kept (and makes a mean Nespresso) and reminds me where she last saw my phone when I’ve lost it. She can pour herself a cup of apple juice without asking for assistance and I don’t cut up her food anymore. She calls me to watch funny videos on Youtube and knows how to do a search for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (or whatever takes her fancy this week) on Netflix. She flicks her hair and she’s choosey with her clothes, she loves the H&M shoe section and will happily wander the home displays of Ikea with me.
She’s capable, kind and funny, and she’s beautiful in that way that’s utterly true because she has no idea and wouldn’t particularly care if you told her so. She feels deeply for others and I sometimes worry that that kind of empathy is going to set her up for hurt in years to come – but I wouldn’t change it for anything. She sings loudly in the car and gets the words wrong but in her mind she’s a rockstar. She loves ballet and ice skating and chocolate and books and making pancakes on Saturday mornings with her dad, and she’s churning through childhood milestones right in front of my eyes.
She’s making six look like my favourite age so far.
It seems to me now that perhaps six is the sweet spot – where she’s just old enough and just young enough at the same time.
She’s old enough to be that much more independent so I don’t feel like my head’s going to explode when it comes to getting both her and her little sister ready in the mornings. She’s old enough to tell me about her day in so many details I can picture the bits I missed. She’s old enough to play board games and to have epic battles of UNO with me, and I don’t have to let her win because she can do that on her own. She’s old enough that she’s the best company I know, and she’s wise in the way that only small children can be – unintentionally, purely, often hilariously. With just a few words, if I listen carefully, she has a way of making sense of the world.
But six is still a small child in every important sense.
She’s young enough to believe in Santa and the tooth fairy and to reach unselfconsciously for my hand as we cross the street to the school playground. She’s young enough to play make believe with her dolls and to call me from the bath to show me the beard she’s made from bubbles (because that still cracks her up even though she’s been doing it since she was 2). She’s young enough to request I read to her at bed time, and goodness knows there are only so many more stories left to read out loud before she decides she’d rather do it on her own with the door closed.
She’s young enough to kiss me on the lips and to ask me to pick her up for a hug and to make me feel like my mama magic still works on her heartbreaks.
At five I grieved for the toddler who was gone forever, but I don’t wish for time to stand still anymore. In the last year this girl of mine has showed me that our children have the power to amaze us far beyond our imagination, and that so much is yet to come.
Six is my favourite age so far, but I expect all that to change the day she turns seven.