This summer my baby, Katie, has undergone a subtle metamorphosis. She went from being a toddler to a kid. She started the summer still wearing diapers and never wanting to be too far from her Mumma. And now she's riding a bike and using the toilet all on her own and using words like "apparently". We took down the crib, not that she ever really slept in it, and she sleeps in a bedroom with her sister Teresa. Well, that's the idea, most nights she still ends up downstairs with us (but shhhhhh! I'm not really too upset about that). All of these changes, while celebrated and cheered, are still so bittersweet. I watch her strut around telling me she's a big girl and want to hold on tight to the baby she once was. I know that in a couple short years she'll be off in the big wide world and I'll have to look back at photos to see what her baby face looked like.
I signed her up for swimming lessons over the summer at a local pond. She was very excited about the idea of swimming lessons. I wondered how she would do. Well, when they called her class she grabbed my hand and hid behind me. She stayed behind me throughout introductions and beyond. When the rest of the group headed to the water Katie still kept her death grip on my hand. I walked her to the water and then pried her fingers from mine and put her hand in the teacher's. This simple action was so incredibly heartwrenching. She cried at first but soon plugged her mouth with her free thumb and clung to her teacher's hand the entire lesson. She did not look in my direction once nor did she speak to or acknowledge her teachers and their attempts to get her involved. You may think the lesson was a total failure but at least she stayed with them. It took most of the summer before she went to them of her own free will and actually participated but she did it. She did it. And while my heart was full to bursting in pride, it was also breaking a little bit, knowing this was just the first step to independence. It's such a complicated feeling, pride and excitement mingled with sadness. A bit scizophrenic, but there it is.
So last night I signed her up for dance class. She's just turning three but eager to take dance like her big sister. I know she has only a vague idea that dance class entails leaving her Mumma's side and mixing with a group of strangers led by adults who are strangers as well. And I am only too well aware that after the first class Mommies and Daddies are welcome to wait in the waiting room but are not allowed in the studio itself. Another big step towards independence for both of us. She's looking forward to wearing her leotard and tutu and ballet slippers and I am excited for her to begin and seeing her tiny little self outfitted like a miniture ballerina. And if she sees a tear in my eye I hope she buys that it's because I'm so proud, because it won't be a total lie, really.