It's a special kind of sad when your child realizes they're growing up and getting bigger. Of course I know it's happening, I notice it every day....but recently Belle (who is 4) has started noticing it and talking about it and it's breaking my heart in a whole new way.
The other day she told me that her Baboo doesn't cover her anymore. Baboo is her most prized possession. Her beloved blanket that she's had since the very moment she came into this world. It was a gift from my best friend when I was pregnant with Belle.
I remember packing it in my hospital bag and then wrapping Belle in it only moments after she was born. Four years later, Baboo still goes everywhere Belle goes. She can't sleep without it and when she's sad or hurt, she wants Baboo even before she wants a hug from me or her dad. She says "Baboo has magical powers" and I'm pretty sure she's right.
But lately she's noticed that she's growing and when she curls up on the couch to watch Peppa Pig, it doesn't quite cover her up anymore. It's breaking my heart to see that she's noticing this and wishing she was still small enough to let Baboo fit over her tiny body with little effort. I wish time would slow down every day - but now that she seems to notice it too, I feel like it's going even faster.
Then last week she asked if we could have a Mommy-Belle day. Since she started school full time this fall she's also noticed that she gets way less time with me. She keeps asking when the weekend will come and if we can spend some time alone. So we did just that and spent the afternoon at one of our favorite places: a local mall.
When she was a baby and I became a stay at home mom, I made it my mission to find places to go and things for us to do every day - especially once she started walking. Time out of the house was always essential for her, and for me. She loves to be outside, and we spend A LOT of time outside, no matter the season, but winters in New England are long and cold and we needed some indoor spots where she could run and play. Enter this little hidden gem.
There's a Barnes & Noble with a Starbucks, so obviously that's a win for both of us. We get coffee and cookies and juice boxes and play in the kids section of the book store, which has a train table and weekly story time. Right beyond the kids section, the store opens up into the "mall" which consists of 4 stores. It's tiny by mall standards, but big enough for her to run down the middle (because NO ONE is ever there) and she always loved playing on the giant plastic boat, which is enclosed in a little kids play area. Right next to that is a gymnastics place that had open gym hours where we'd kill some more time and get some energy out before nap time. And there's a cute little photo booth where we snap pics of ourselves making silly faces.
At the arcade, I turn $5 into quarters and she's entertained for a solid hour playing 25 cent games, gathering tickets and then choosing a prize with her winnings. This lame little mall is always just the right amount of cheap fun.
So when I asked her where she wanted to spend her Mommy-Belle time, I wasn't at all surprised that she asked to go here. Our first stop was the arcade and 470 tickets and 5 prizes later, she was ready to go climb on the big boat. She held my hand as we walked over - instead of taking off running like she used to - and she talked about her prizes and how she was having "the best day ever!" When we got to the boat, she paused and looked at me and said "mom, it's so small." I told her it wasn't small, she had just gotten bigger since the last time we were there.
She took it all in for a minute and I wanted to climb inside her brain and know what she was thinking. Was she sad? Was she confused? Was she wondering how on earth she used to have fun on this thing that was clearly made for much smaller kids? She didn't even climb to the top like she'd done every single time since she was 14 months old. Instead, she walked over to the puzzles on the wall and sat down to try to solve one. I've never seen her even look at those before. It's always been about running, climbing, jumping off the top. But not today. She was older and into new things and the boat was small.
I've heard people say that someday when you pick up your child it'll be the last time you carry them like that, but you won't even know it. That last time just happens and suddenly they're too big for you to carry. I feel like that day is close and I want to run full speed in the other direction.
Despite the fact that I feel this special kind of sad, I also feel so much gratitude. Because this place, these seemingly mundane activities we've done together since she was a baby - drinking juice boxes, playing arcade games, taking silly pictures, reading books on the floor and climbing the not so big boat - these are her memories. This is her childhood. This time together is so very precious and fleeting, yet it's impact will last her lifetime...and mine. I hope she always needs Mommy days - even when she's too big to carry and when Baboo no longer fits over her. Because I know I'll always need my Belle days.