You're on the stage with the other preschool ballet dancers, and I am staring at you with a heart full of both immeasurable joy and tears in my eyes. You are beautiful. I know that's an overexposed, much-debated word that holds different levels of significance for people. Yes, I'm your mother and genetically biased. That all said: Inside, outside and, often your directional pose of choice, upside down -- you are breathtaking.
Zoe, at times, most times, your level of energy also leaves me breathless. I happily take each gray hair with pride (and stride).
You are 5.
And my dear, Sam:
You like to roar. Whether you're a T-Rex, a lion or your fun, boisterous self, excited about the cement mixer driving by, you let it out loud and proud to make your presence felt and perhaps heard over your chatty sister. You live and love hard, and it's deliciously contagious.
"Zoe! Come on!" was your first three-word combo, followed quickly by, "Zoe, look at this!" You crave her interest, shared giggles and hilarious hide-and-seeking. When things get a little too wild, you'll call and run to me, sucking your thumb, hop up on my lap and lay your head into my chest. You need a moment, but just one or two.
You are a wickedly fine cocktail of devilish charm and sweetness with a heart worn proudly on your sleeve.
You are 2.
She sees you. She is proud of you. She holds your hand and wants to know you are always OK. She is, unequivocally, your BFF. Like you, her angel rides the right shoulder, and devil, the left.
Zoe, there are times you test me like it's a 24/7 trial of the century with inquisitions, intense objections and shoddy evidence, at best, for conviction or acquittal. But we figure it out. Your chatter is rich with dramatic tales, wise words and hilarity. You, too, wear your heart on your sleeve. I watch you test out your toughness and eventually embrace your emotional hurdles. Your anger, sadness, contentment and joy are just four of the dozens of cards you hold but 100 percent of the time will show.
Your strong will and sensitivity are gifts. It is part of your glorious truth.
You are 5. Spectacularly.
And he's watching you too. Attentively. Admirably. Lovingly.
My grateful Sam, "thank you" was your first two-word combo. I'd be lying if I said this doesn't fill me with utter hope. You can go from zero to 60 before I can even sing the first line of the ABC's. You have a three-octave scream -- one note is never enough -- when another child takes your toy, gets too close or talks too loud. It's usually her, and it's only sometimes on some days, and when you feel the need for your own space. When you find your calm and peace again, you thank your adversary-turned-friend.
You walk the line between an irrationally unsatisfied customer and a Christmas elf oozing with joy.
You are 2. Magnificently.
You're learning to share, to think, to wait, to ask nicely, to care, to be kind always. Both of you. You try and try and try and try. There are tears, battles, ups, downs, topsy-turvy craziness. There is calm, clarity and contentment. If your Dad and I are doing our family's journey justice, you will deepen these virtues and apply them to your adventures. We guarantee you a never-ending syllabus to guide you through it all, so that you get up and embrace each day, especially those hard ones. There may be a lot of edits and rewrites along the way (hey, we're learners too), but we'll happily cross each bridge and round each turn with you.
As parents, we often say, "How did this happen?" when we talk about our kids growing up. What's next is always, so suddenly, now. It feels like the definition of bittersweet. I don't know how this moment in our family history can feel like a blink of an eye and simultaneously a long, winding road, but it does. Our priceless moments, milestones, chaos and everyday minutia are Exhibit A. Whether it was the days you were born, yesterday or five minutes ago, each is precious and holds meaning. Embrace it.
You are 5, and you are 2. I don't wish to stop the clock... I just want to look at it less. Maybe it is inevitable, but I hope I am not a mom who says "how did this happen?" at your graduations.
Because it all did.