“I do myself.”
Those three little words bring satisfaction and sadness all at once.
As I watch my toddler girl dominate everything from putting on her sandals in the morning or her pajamas at night, these words have become her calling card.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore watching as she masters these skills. I clap and congratulate and photograph. But part of me deep down in the depths of my belly feels regret. Disappointment another milestone has arrived and knocked me down the ladder as total caregiver.
Every parent goes through the wishing phase. Wishing they could hold their own bottle. Wishing they didn’t need that third cup of water before bed. Wishing they were just a little more this or old enough to do that. I’ve spent more time in the wishing phase with my children than I’d like to admit.
I remember when she was first born. I longed for the days I could leave her on her own to play. To wash a dish or take a shower. The day where she didn’t require my undivided attention. Her needs were all encompassing. The necessity felt heavy.
Then one day, I was making animal noises, a single pea hidden inside a cylinder pasta noodle, and just like that, she takes the fork, “I do myself.”
I applauded her independence, free to savour my first meal in what felt like forever. Then came potty training. Another, much-welcomed life skill grasped. She never had an accident at night, not once. After purchasing 10 lottery tickets because, really, who can be this lucky, the Pull-Ups were given away.
I found a diaper months later while cleaning out my car and burst into tears. My baby was gone in the blink of an eye.
With lightning speed, my presence was no longer required for squeezing ketchup on hamburgers or syrup on morning pancakes. I was reprimanded for picking out her dora the explorer undies and buckling her car seat. I was witnessing a self-reliant, headstrong girl emerge where the baby I coddled used to be.
The desire to hold onto these moments pulls at my insides.
I will take more time to appreciate every shampoo mohawk and skinned knee.
I will read one more book before bed.
I will plant a million kisses on her chubby cheeks and sticky fingers.
Once these moments are gone, they are gone. You can’t get them back. You can look back on pictures with fondness, but you can’t get back the smell of a newborn head or the sound her dummy makes as she’s drifting off to sleep.
And though parenting can feel like there are 40 hours in a day at times, I am going to make an effort to be present in these moments, before the next “I do myself” comes tumbling out.
Model: Ymke – Clothes: dress by Elsy
Photo credits: Evelyne Photography – www.evelynephotography.com
Evelyne is a professional photographer in The Netherlands. Based in The Hague, she specialises in shooting people and capturing personality. Though she works mostly in the The Hague area, Evelyne travels and shoots all over Holland. Boundaries do not exist between her portrait photography, corporate photography and commercial photography and she just launched her newest project ‘Kids by Eve’.