She's pushing forward and I'm pulling back.
There is so much ahead for her, and she can't wait to get to it.
There is so much behind me, and I find myself wanting to hold on to it.
It's different with this kid. Sure, there were pangs of sadness as each of my three older children emerged from the days of being wrapped around my hip. But there was always another baby to distract me and give me another chance to soak it up and do it better.
This time I am treading water in a melting pot of emotions. And it's been threatening to boil over the past few weeks.
When my mom was 40, I was in my final year of high school and filling out applications for university. She was working full-time outside the home by then and leaving me and my sister to our own devices. The tumultuous early teens were behind us, and we had settled into an easy co-existence.
Here at my house, I'm still spending a good portion of my day with a pint-sized playmate. I am cutting food into bite-sized pieces and reminding her for the umpteenth time to stop what she's doing to go to the bathroom.
She's stubborn and determined to do things her way. And I am too.
This makes us the best of friends and sometimes the worst of adversaries.
Her recent fourth birthday, and the SEE YA THREE, DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT attitude she's been flaunting has left me feeling off kilter.
It feels uncomfortably like a mini identity crisis of sorts. And, yes, I've become a bit needy because of it. Blech.
With the first three kids, there was always the hope of another baby to fill the outgrown booties, and in fact, there was already a baby doing just that by the time each of them turned four.
Now there are no more and I feel unhinged, unmoored, unsure.
It's time to take more of a sideline approach to parenting. Of course, I'm here in the thick of things still: overseeing, counselling, listening on top of the day-to-day feeding and washing that goes on. But I am not needed as much anymore.
I'm 40 years old and clawing my way out of the baby days, where I've spent 12 years.
I moved towards her birthday with heels dug in and turned into an emotional vaccuum, sucking the air out of every room and wearing it like a heavy rug around my shoulders.
Despite never being a couple to celebrate Valentine's Day with any kind of fanfare, I was quite put out that JB didn't get me a card. Gifts don't matter. But this year I wanted/needed to read words about being a good mom and fantastic wife.
What does he see when he looks at me now?
If I'm struggling to see who I am now, I needed him to tell me.
And because he accepts me wholly and flawed, he left this homemade card on my pillow three days after Valentine's.
He understands that I just need to work through this and figure out how to get to the other side with a new perspective. And I will.
But it won't be easy. Parenthood never is.