09/08/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2014

Please Do Grow Up

Wendy Bradford

You schemed to get your birthday announced on a children's television show. "Seven is too old," you said. So, you changed your birth year and claimed you were turning 6. This is the closest we get to turning back time.

Much is said of time going by too fast; it certainly doesn't slow down. But I don't wish that it would, or that I could freeze you where you are now, or where you were as a toddler crying when your feet touched the sand for the first time, or a preschooler practicing your new songs. You change every day, I admit, and often, I'm a step behind you because I wasn't paying close enough attention.

Time keeps us just on the edge of what is coming along. Acknowledging that we are gifted with surprises great and small is exactly the pace at which we should live. I don't wish it were different.

Tomorrow you start second grade; today you turn 7 years old. All summer you've been learning games on the computer, making up passwords and usernames to enter make-believe places where penguins talk to each other or princesses need wardrobe changes. You easily learned to use my printer. You became fearless in the swimming pool and insisted we take the training wheels off your bicycle. On your bedroom shelves are a few books you really like, and many more that you no longer do.

When I yell at you to clean your room or stop playing with your food at the table, you yell back often and also without fear. You stop me cold when you say, "Mommy, you aren't being very nice. I'll treat you the same way." Again, I am a step behind you.

I remember when I realized I had a daughter and not just a baby. It was as if the planet shifted, and I felt close to slipping off. All the hard edges revealed themselves, and it occurred to me I would be teaching a girl how to be in a world I had not yet figured out.

There are regrets as we enter another year together; but they are the inevitable byproduct of learning to a job when the instructions are never clear. Some of the answers seem simple now, only as I look back. When the hard moments of parenting engulf me, the answers, the questions themselves, are just beyond my grasp. And they fade quickly as if they were steam on a mirror.

I am tempted to feel cheated by the busy-ness of our lives, by work and appointments and classes and plans -- distractions that keep me from appreciating your obsession with ordering sushi or your decision to do yoga along with the DVDs on a Saturday morning. When I rushed by you this morning, did I notice that you styled your own hair? We expect so much from every moment that it seems painful to let go of any. You still ask that I "sleep in your bed" while you go to sleep each night. One day that will change, and I may not notice which day it was.

But it happens without our permission, this order of things. We strain to make ourselves powerful over its wave. There are photos from every week of your life, each season, each classroom, almost every ice cream cone. I take them with perpetual need to capture this time; yet, I will never be able to walk back into any of them. If there is perfection in this world, it exists in the patterns and pulls we cannot control. It is a privilege to watch you grow up. Please do that. Remain, wherever you are, one step ahead of me so that only immeasurable love will follow you.