Until My Heart Caves In

At first I had no idea what sound she was making.

Something high-pitched, somewhere between a whine and a battle cry, her hands spread and ready.

“What…was that?”

She put her hands down and looked at me, disappointed.

“That’s a karate noise, MOMMY.”


She was still stark naked and sopping wet from her bath, but I grabbed her to my chest all the same. “My little three-year-old.” It was a whisper and a prayer, half in reverence, half in hope I hadn’t missed anything crucial in these nearly four years now.

And today, it is four years.

Yesterday, Bean was three. Today, she is four.


I wanted everything to freeze so I could stay in any given moment my kids are still ages three and nine. Maybe the moment I watched my son give his little sister a piggyback ride around the living room, their bone-deep belly laughs bouncing off our walls. Or the moment when I caught my daughter singing Puff the Magic Dragon in the bathroom, or rather, the chorus she knew over and over. Or any one of the sort of dull, quietly poignant moments that happen early on a lazy Saturday morning when the four of us are all under the same blanket for a little while.

I want to capture it all. I want to capture my now-four-year-old just as she is. And I do, often. I capture her smile, her laugh, the certain way she says things.

But try as I might, no matter how hard I squeeze my eyes shut and just be present, I cannot fully capture the feel of her tiny hands pressed against my neck. Or the way she will stop what she is doing to hug my knees and call my name until she has my attention, only to say, “I love you.” Or the sweetest little gap between her two front baby teeth that jolts me every time she smiles wide enough to see it. Or the precise softness of her skin, the dimple in her right cheek, the whisper-faint freckles across her nose, her scent — oh, her scent.

I want to store all of these things up to pull out and savor on the days I am most aware of how quickly she is growing. I want to never forget all the things she said or did to make me laugh, the unintentionally funny expressions she makes when she is oh, so serious, the pitch of her voice when she calls for me in the middle of the night searching for reassurance, the exact smallness of her hand folded inside of mine.

It isn’t fair.

Time should take twice as long to grow these babies, or at least my babies, because one day, one sunrise to tucked-in, lights-out, isn’t nearly enough to get my fill.

I want years to hear her toddler laugh, her way of saying “turquoise,” her stumbling over many-worded songs, her squeal over puppies and cupcakes and twirly skirts.

But instead I get what everyone gets, the same amount of time and turns of the earth, and my heart caves in, overwhelmed by the weight of melancholy and delight, nostalgia and the anticipation of the magical girl she is growing up to be.

Instead, I watch her sleep and don’t even try to stop myself from touching her. Instead, I press my nose against the curve of her cheek, even if she might stir or, worse, squirm away from me, and convince myself I will remember every single moment.

Happy birthday, Bean, you are breaking my heart.



Filed under Parenting

5 responses to “Until My Heart Caves In

  1. Laura McClellan

    Sweetest girl! Happy birthday, Bean.

    This was precious.

  2. Auntie M

    You are depressing me. Time to kidnap Bean again.

  3. Jess, you need to stop wrecking me like this.

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