Happy birthday, girl! It’s hard to believe it’s been three years already. It is a mere 14 or 15 years until you head to college, which means we are one-sixth of the way before you will be leaving home. You can’t be going so soon! Every night when I check on you while you are sleeping, and I tuck your gangly limbs that have burst free back safe and snug under the sheets, I think that I want to freeze each moment, be able to have every night be as the current one, and keep you as you are for just a minute longer.
But the hours and days march inexorably forward, and you grow and change. When I put you to bed, I no longer get to sing my favorite night-time songs to you, and I miss the sweet, soft way you used to whisper for them in turn (and usually get the titles amusingly wrong, but that’s another story) as I snuggled next to you when you were younger. Now, some nights we chat briefly about the day, we rub noses, or you instruct me to go take care of Mama and Thalia. Sometimes you flat-out ask me to leave. There is no singing.
Yet while you change, and our relationship changes–in small, subtle ways now but eventually bigger, irreversible ways in the future–I still find each day a treasure, each night a night where I don’t want you to get any older. Sure, life isn’t fair, but it at times seems especially unfair that time is unidirectional: You and I will age, and we will constantly have to find new moments to cherish and celebrate, new moments that I would extend forever, to have you always there. My hope is that doing so will remain the easiest of tasks I have as a father for many years to come.
And in postscript reflection, I realize that I too often allow my own daily chores and challenges to mask the reality that I participate at the other end of this relationship, too. Have my parents had such similar revelations of wanting to freeze my moments in amber, to stop time with me? Have your mother’s parents, too, with her? I assume they must, and I believe if I spent the time to look, I would find the ways in which they express it.
Siena, you have the curse of a parent with the technological savvy but perhaps not the grace or discretion required, who writes for all to see some few secrets of what it means to be a parent, secrets that are probably best left unspoken rather than broadcast, discovered rather than revealed. Your grandparents have operated with more deftness and subtlety, but surely with no less love. Hopefully they will know that as I look back on my own life, there are moments too numerable to count where I would freeze time with them, had I the power.