Last night was the last night

Last night was the last night I was the mom to a 5-year-old. I’ll never again be the mom of a 5-year-old.

Parenting is so full of endings. Many we never even notice. I couldn’t tell you the day or time of when I changed Bean’s very last diaper. Or when I fed her her last spoonful of baby food. Or the last time I zipped her into footie pajamas.

So many endings, that just go unremarked, unnoticed in the continual noise and evolution of life.

Bean has a playlist of music on my phone. It’s mostly They Might Be Giants and My Little Pony songs, spiced with Disney tunes and Jonathan Coulton.

Last night, after we’d eaten dinner and the nightly ritual of chanting “get ready for bed” had begun, the song, I’m Better When I’m Dancing, from The Peanuts Movie played.

Bean grabbed my hand and said “Mommy, dance with me!”

Of course, I did. Arms flailing, silly faces, jerky kicks … basically, me doing The Elaine from Seinfield, except less gracefully.

I picked her up and spun her. Helped her jump high. We twirled and laughed and tried to out-goof each other as we whirled around our tiny kitchen, shaking our hips and hair.

And it occurred to me that, right then, as her little fingers intertwined with mine, that this was the last time I’d dance with my 5-year-old.

We’ll dance again, but she’ll be 6. Then 7. Then, one day, it’ll be too embarrassing to dance with her mom, even in her own kitchen where nobody’s watching. Then, one day, it’ll be fun again. Then one, day, I won’t be able to dance.

So many endings yet to come.

And, even though I told her we could only dance to one song because it was late and school night and she needed to get ready for bed, as that song faded, The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton came on.

She looked up at me, eyes wide, pleading, mouth in a wide grin. “Please, mommy! Just one more song! Just one more dance!”

I looked at the clock. Past her bedtime. I looked at the kitchen, sink full of dishes, food cooling in pans.

I looked at her face, and said yes, of course. One more song, one more dance for you, my 5-year-old. Because tomorrow, I won’t dance with you again. Tomorrow, when we dance, you’ll be 6.

Parenting is full of endings.

One day, I’ll pick her up, set her down, and never pick her up again.

One day, I’ll drop her off at school for the last time.

One day, I’ll help her carry her last box of things out of my house and into her own place.

But each of those endings is a new beginning, too. A new chapter, a new step in the ever-evolving relationship between my daughter and me.

I love watching her grow up. I hate it, too. It’s such a dichotomy. And I don’t think I’ll ever get over that vague future grief and nostalgia of knowing I’ll miss the present with her, just as a much as I’m looking toward the future and who she will be.

Endings and beginnings aren’t always as sharp of a contrast as they seem.

Last night, I had a 5-year-old. Today, I have a 6-year-old.

She’s really not that different, yet. The difference is all in my head so far. She’s still vibrantly goofy, scarily clever, and deeply funny, even if she doesn’t mean it. She’s still the kid who wants to hold up the bus line to wait for another kid who’s running late. She’s still the kid who spirals into a poutfest when she doesn’t win the Hatchimals game.

But, last night was my last dance with my 5-year-old.

Today begins a new dance with my 6-year-old. I can’t wait to see where she takes me this year, because, at the very least, I know it will be an adventure.

Happy birthday, my darling Bean. I love you, my precious, silly, brilliant, sweet girl. Te amo.


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