It's been almost two years since this picture was taken. Two. Years.
Can you see the baby still? I can.
I can also see the big girl - the girl she is right now.
As a parent I think I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about things within my control as well as beyond it. We all worry about things that even if they could be channeled and driven, maybe should be left well enough alone.
Most of the time I think I am the opposite of competitive. I didn't rush any of the big girl things. I let them happen. When others worried that she wasn't crawling or talking, I told them to hush. She was perfect even if she wasn't perfect.
That's not to say that I didn't worry - that I still worry - about making mistakes:
Should she be enrolled in preschool, dance, gymnastics, yoga, kindermusic, foreign language immersion AND swim classes? Should I have made a more concerted effort to get her to learn how to use the computer or eat with chopsticks or recite the alphabet?
Each time a stunning milestone passes from the lips of another parent, do I not compare and wonder if I've failed her?
Is she missing out on something?
I push those thoughts to the corner of my head as I race around to prepare for another day. I tell myself there just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. There's not enough money in the world nor enough motivation. I know, deep down in my soul that growth happens whether I'm watching or not. I tell myself that going about ensuring only the barest of necessisties are met doesn't mean I'm neglectful.
Is it not true sometimes that the prettiest flower is also a weed?
That's what it felt like today, anyway, as I rushed around getting ready for work, late as usual.
There is always so many banal tasks that need to get done before we leave the house: Getting showered, getting dressed, getting breakfast, getting the dishwasher emptied, getting the laundry folded and put away ... all while packing bags for the day and trying to remember the stuff we always forget.
Today there was also the happy business of wrapping a birthday present for her friend Jacob, the babysitter's son.
"We need a card," she yelled to me as I stuck the last inch of tape on the slap-dash wrap job.
"Here," I say as I thrust a piece of green construction paper and a blue marker into her hand. "You do it."
"But I don't know how!" she protests.
I grab the pen back and write: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACOB. LOVE, ANNABEL on the back of a wrapping paper remnant.
"Here. Copy this."
She was silent as I dashed about depositing piles of laundry into empty drawers and filling bags with the things we would need for the day.
I had practically forgotten what I had tasked her with when she interrupted my interpretive dance - "Chicken with Head Cut Off" - to ask me to evaluate her progress.
"How's this look?" she asked, showing me a perfectly legible HAPPY BIRT ...
"Oh, honey ... that is perfect. Really, really perfect."