I am running out of little girls. I am so aware lately of how little time I have left for dress-up and potions and imaginary things. Victoria is nearly twelve and my baby Annalee is ten.
Ten-to-eleven can be a crazy age. Kids get moody, clumsy, sensitive, confused, irritable. They want to be big, then they want to be little. Mothers can become the enemy, even when they were faultless up till now.
I know it’s coming. I’ve been through it once and have seen many other beloved ten-to-eleven year-olds start on that roller coaster.
Annalee has never been a boring child. She has been emotional, dramatic, sensitive, energetic, talkative and exuberant since birth.
She has also always been childlike. Where Victoria was born with an old soul, Annalee was born with a brand new one.
She relished being babied when she was a baby. Where Victoria had no time for rocking and fussed if I tried a lullaby, Annalee delighted in being snuggled, dressed up, sang to and otherwise mothered.
She was the quintessential little girl when she was little. She loved princesses, dress-up and make believe. Everything was pink. Everything was frilly or feathered. There were ponies and dolls and sparkles (though not one to be typecast there were also soccer balls, jeans and a perplexing love for math).
And now, at ten, Annalee is still my little girl. She spent much of yesterday hanging upside down from a tree so Victoria could try out her new camera accessory. She made up a circus show in the back yard, complete with posters advertising free admission. She is still crazy about all things Harry Potter. She still calls me “Mama.” She still asks me if we can do a craft, please, just the two of us.
I don’t want to misrepresent her — this child can drive me to the brink like none of my others. She can push buttons, throw fits, take on attitudes and make me nuts. She is no superchild. But she is a super child.
Today, Annalee brought me a gourmet egg dish she invented herself (“fresh, local eggs,” she told me, “with chives I snipped fresh from the garden”), watched her little brother, washed walls, scooped the cat box, drew me several pictures, organized her father’s sockets, carried branches, posed for her sister, comforted Alex and ran errands — and most of it she volunteered for without even being asked.
She is a sweet little girl.
Little. For not much longer.
I am so aware of the ticking of the clock. I know how little time there is left of this particular girl before she is replaced with an older, wiser, more grown up girl. She will be just as fabulous, but she will not be this child.
She can only be little for a little while more.
Someday soon, Annalee will outgrow Harry Potter. Before I know it, it will be time for training bras… dating… college classes… In ten short years, her childhood will be a distant memory.
Tomorrow, Anna says she’s going to wake at 6:45 so she can make Daddy a special egg for when he wakes up. I think I’ll wake up early too, and maybe do that craft.
“The days are long but the years are short.”