One day I was driving somewhere and she was, oddly enough, the only one in the car with me. I don't think that has ever happened before, and I don't know why it happened on that day, which means it will probably never happen again. But there we were, just me and my Heather. She said, without preamble, "Mom, someday all of your kids will grow up and leave. What are you going to do then?"
And my mind just burst wide open with all of the things I have thought about, and dreamed about doing when they "all grow up and leave". So many plans and hopes and I didn't even know where to start. I didn't want to seem overeager to have them all "grow up and leave", what if that made her sad? I do enjoy this time with them most of the time... I thought quickly, and asked her back, "What do you think Mommy will do when you grow up and leave?" She was quiet for a minute, and I peeked at her in the rear view mirror, her face thoughtful as she looked out the window at the trees rushing by.
I turned my attention back to the traffic just in time to hear her say, "I think you're going to die."
Well, that had not been on my radar at all as a topic of conversation but there we were. I took a deep breath, and answered honestly. "Yep, I guess that's true, that's what all people do eventually. But I hope you are really grown and big by the time that happens."
She thought that sounded like an okay plan.
One cold afternoon I was laying in bed all snuggled down the way I like to do from time to time, and my favorite is when one of the girls comes to find me and sneaks in bed with me and then we hunker down together against the cold grey dreariness of winter. I closed my eyes and held her little body tightly against mine. I felt more than heard her whisper, "Mommy?"
I mumbled a sleepy, "what?" in response.
She paused for a minute, and then began. "Your face is perfect, mommy. You have perfect eyes, and a perfect nose, and a perfect mouth, and perfect cheeks, and perfect ears. I just love you, mommy."
How do you respond to that? I don't know about you, but I think I cried, and then hugged her tighter, and told her she was perfect too.
One afternoon she was helping me make cookies. She sat on the counter and dictated to me the proceedings very confidently, in the way a child that has helped to make cookies many, many times is able to do. Of course she has her favorite moments in the process, and was eager to jump ahead to them. "Can we put the chocolate chips in yet?" "Now can we?" "Isn't it time yet?"
I finally told her that she needed to be patient and stop asking about the chocolate chips, or go do something else. She was quiet for half a breath and then said, very seriously, "Patient? I don't think I know how to do that, mommy."
There was one night I had prepared a new meal for dinner. It was ham and pineapple and green peppers served over rice (if I recall correctly), which isn't entirely new for our family, but the recipe was and it had been a while since we had had anything like it. I was enjoying it immensely, and I thought the rest of the family was as well, as it was abnormally quiet at the dinner table which is usually a sign that mouths are too busy eating to be talking.
Heather suddenly jumped up, and walking out of the room said over her shoulder to no one in particular, but as an announcement to the room at large, "Well, I'm done with that weird dinner." And then nonchalantly began to play with her toys.
And then, just now, even moments ago, I finally decided I had to write all these stories out because I never want to forget what Heather is like at four years old. I had put her in bed twice already tonight, and was at the point of telling her that if she got up again and wouldn't sleep in her bed then she could sleep in the garage. Devin and I were talking, getting ready for bed ourselves, because with our early wake up times we go to bed right after putting the girls in bed. (I frequently fall asleep before they do). Heather came slowly trudging into our bathroom, and I said, "so the garage then?" And she answered with a scared look on her face, (as if I would ever actually do it, but their belief in it works for me), "No! I just need to tell daddy something."
"Ok, talk to him quick and then get yourself back in bed." I told her.
"Daddy, can I tell you something?" She said in her sweetest, softest, look I'm just a tiny little girl voice.
"I would rather hear it in the morning, Can you tell me tomorrow?" Devin answered back in his "I'm the nicest daddy on the planet but I'm tired now and can you go to bed please" voice.
"No, because I have to tell you now because it's something you have to do in the night." She told him, very adamantly.
"Ok, fine, what?"
"You have to come snuggle me."
Well played, four year old. Well played.
Happy birthday, Heather. May four years old continue to work out for you as well as it has been.