We are walking the dogs along the busy road, the sun is falling fast, and the cool April air is getting colder with every step.
Ainsley runs ahead, then runs back, "Mommy, watch. This is my tired round off." She runs again and does a lazy, crooked, cartwheel, sort-of. Then falls on her bottom.
She bounces up, runs toward me and says "Okay, now this is my real round off." She runs faster this time and does a round off. Definitely not perfect, but not bad either. "Did you see?" she asks.
I nod. I watch her skip towards the intersection and I try to remember the last time I skipped.
"Mommy?" She calls, "Are you still looking for them?"
"Yes, Ainsley." I scan the grass, "There's one."
"Oh wow," she exclaims, "That's a big one. How did we miss that on our way?" She runs up the slight hill and gently picks the green stem, not to disturb the cottony wisps on the end.
"You do this one," she says.
"No, you do it. It's almost perfect." I reply.
She stops, thinks, then blows. The little buds dance and flip on the wind. She tells me that she always wishes the same thing so it's guaranteed to come true.
And then we're walking again and I'm listening to her tell me silly lies, then scream "April Fool's" over the roar of traffic. And I'm thinking that she'll be 9 soon. That time is going too fast. Nine is half way. And I'm thinking that I just love this age. I never thought I would. I thought I'd hate the pre-tween, big kid, on the edge of childhood, years. I thought I'd always crave a baby. And sometimes I see a picture of her in a car seat, or a video of her singing as a toddler, and my heart almost explodes with want and need for time to stop. But I love her at this age.
Challenges? Yes, there are challenges. But mostly I love the contradiction that is this age. The moments of maturity surrounded by giggles, tangled locks, missing teeth, and cartwheels.
Yesterday, while I showered, she asked if she could wear make-up out of the house and I told her no. In a moment of content, she accepted no as an answer and left the room. As I finished washing my hair, I thought that I should have told her why the answer was no. That I should have said, this moment is fleeting - please hold it as long as you can. These are your last moments of little girl. That make-up makes you grown. And grown girls don't skip home. They don't do round offs or swing from tree branches. They don't sound exactly like Ariel when they sing in the shower. They don't rush down stairs on April 1st wondering what tricks have been played. They don't blow dandelions into the wind, believing the puffs will carry wishes into reality. They don't slip their hand inside their mother's absentmindedly while practicing times tables.
Nine is half way. How can we be half way? There will be so much time for make-up and grown up girl things. Right now, I just want us to enjoy the little girl that we'll both miss one day.