It happened somewhere between childish toddler legs and long thighs.
I noticed--almost suddenly--the way you began to articulate your thoughts in a precise manner that was no longer babyish. More, you started using phrases and gestures from school; from other kids; from life outside of the one that you share, with me.
Your face is more angular in places. You've always been genuinely beautiful, but now your beauty supersedes babyhood.
You are only five. You are already five. You are a little girl and, officially, no longer my baby (although, as all parents everywhere can attest--you will always be my baby).
I gently fold and place the clothes that you've outgrown into crates for your sister to one day wear. You love clothes and have many special outfits that are attached to memories, and I hate to see them no longer fit.
When your sister was born, I unpacked your once-upon-a-time baby clothes.
I took out sweaters that had stains just there at the top, near the collar. At first, I wondered why I had saved them. Why would I have decided to store stained baby clothing? But then I looked closer and that wasn't a stain at all, but the moment when you first tried pears and weren't sure what you thought, or the afternoon you fell instantly in love with avocados (still one of your favorites).
Our life over the last five years has included a decent amount of change.
We've experienced another birth, two moves, a new job for your daddy and many other small things that would possibly be trivialities to someone looking at our lives, but when you're living inside of these changes, they are significant--especially for a child.
Everything in my life has meaning, with you.
You move through transition with more grace than most adults, much less any other child I've previously met. I've tried as hard as I can to maintain continuity, but, with life, change is at times inevitable, especially with a new, growing, thriving little family.
It's also easy, as a stay-at-home mother, to stop noticing these tiny things that make up your childhood.
It's easy to hop on Facebook instead of watch how you read to your dolls.
It's simple to gloss over how well you color now, or how opinionated you are about what the baby wears that day. Yet, when I stay right here inside of my days, with you, I can tell how your slightest gesture or glance says an awful lot about how very much you are developing--and leaving your childhood slowly behind.
I imagine each step with an outgrown item from your closet behind you, in a slow trail like Hansel and Gretel. Much like that story, this trail will also become invisible.
It will never be invisible, to me.
I might miss--one day, and in my own busy hurry--to properly pay attention to the exact moment your shirt became too short to put on, or how your hair falls past your shoulders rather than brushing them at the tops, but I will always lovingly secret away your silent steps of growth, in my tender mommy-breast.
Because my heart has recognized what my brain has known for awhile: and then you were a girl.