Every night, I tiptoe into my daughter's room to watch her sleep.
I gently rub her little back, feeling her warmth. There is a softness about her in the crib. Her hair seems longer and finer. I whisper to her that I love her and that can't wait to see her in the morning. I wonder what she is dreaming about. My hope is that her dreams are full of everything she loves: slides, Elmo, cheese, sand. Even in her sleep, she moves around a lot, rolling over back and forth, somehow ending up on the far side of the crib. Sometimes I find her sprawled out on top of her stuffed animals. Other nights, she falls asleep with her foot poking out through the crib slats.
From morning to night, she is like a whirlwind. She runs around the playground and climbs on furniture: my fearless explorer. She is loud and fast and usually covered in some combination of sweat, dirt and sand by 5 p.m..
It's hard to catch a moment with her during the day. She goes from one activity to the next without a break. Sometimes she won't hold my hand because she wants to run ahead of me. She sits on my lap for minute, but then jumps up when something better catches her eye. I am always trying to keep up with her.
Everyone says that your child grows up quickly. "Enjoy it," moms with teenagers tell me. "It goes by so fast," they say. I know. How can I not know this? My baby girl seems older than her 22 months. She talks now. She pretends to feed her stuffed animals and then pushes them around in the doll stroller. In these moments, I burst with pride, but with tears in the corners of my eyes. It is going by too fast.
There is no greater joy then seeing my daughter thrive. She grows week-to-week, day-to-day; this is what a parent wants. But there is a part of me that wishes I could hold her like I did when she was a tiny newborn. I want to slow things down, even just for a moment.
I deeply cherish my beautiful days filled with dirt and scrapes and balls and swings, but there is something so special about watching her at night. She finally stops moving and rests. I can just observe my beautiful daughter in the present. These are my stolen moments -- a gift to myself.
Some nights, I could stare at her forever, trying to capture the picture that I see. But then I remember that she is growing even in her sleep. And I am certain that in her dreams, she is always running.
This article was first published on Mom Babble.