I’m standing at the kitchen sink, washing the morning dishes when I hear heavy footfall on the stairs. My 9-year-old daughter suddenly appears at my side, frustration clouding her face.

“Look,” she says, pointing down at her legs. “My pants are too short.”

“Well, you have other pairs that fit, right?” I cast a sideways glance her way as I keep scrubbing and notice the pale peach swath of skin on her shin does look noticeably larger.

“I tried them all on, and they’re all too tight or short,” her voice noticeably trembles, a tell-tale sign tears will soon follow. “Mommy, why do I have to keep getting bigger? Can’t I just stay nine forever?”

I set down the plate I’m holding and quickly dry my hands. I kneel and curve my fingers around her still-baby cheeks, noticing tears perched on the corners of her sky-blue eyes.

All at once, I remember nine minutes after she was born when I held her like there was no tomorrow.

How she looked up at me with those same eyes, full of as many questions as I wanted to ask her. How her tiny hand curled around my fingers, and even in spite of how overwhelmed and tired I was, I never wanted that moment to end.

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I remember how after nine days together she started finding her voice, and her grunts and squeals and gurgles became the soundtrack to my days. How her cries woke me when the sky was black, seeking the warmth of my midnight arms, and how her happy sighs lulled us both back to sleep once I found her in the darkness.

I remember when she was nine months old and taking her first steps toward me, filled with astonishment someone so little could find steadiness in such an unstable world. How her little feet followed my encouraging voice, telling her I was there to catch her if she fell, promising I would be her respite.

I remember how I wanted to freeze time in so many of her first moments and all the moments in between.

I felt the bittersweet pang of loss every parent feels, watching their children grow, knowing the only thing we can count on is that everything will always keep changingthat their hands will start doing things on their own, their voices will keep getting stronger, and their little legs will keep getting longer. 

No matter how hard we all try, we can’t stop time. But we can be thankful for the collection of moments that slow it down and stop us in our tracks, allowing us to pause and see the infinite beauty our children bring to our lives every single day.

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So now, nine years later, my knees on the cold kitchen floor, I offer up a silent prayer of thanks that my daughter still wants to hold my hand. I am grateful for how her voice fills our days with stories and joy and an inquisitiveness only a child can offer. I am thankful her footfall still finds me for reassurance when things feel wobbly, like in this very moment we are in together right now, both wishing time could stand still.

“As much as I would like to keep you little,” I tell her, “I like watching you grow up too much.”

I point down at her legs, “So don’t worry about the pants, we’ll get some new ones.”

My daughter reaches out for my hand to help me up to my feet. She smiles at me, and I feel my heart swell in my chest, the way it did the first time we met all those years ago.

“Have I ever told you the story of how I knew you were my mom?” she asks me.

“Tell me,” I beg her.

“It was how I felt when you were next to me,” she says. “I felt so safe. I still do.”

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I squeeze her hand and smile back, my own words catching in my throat, thinking about how amazing it is to watch our children bloom into the people they will become, graciously letting our love grow right alongside them.

Corey Wheeland

Corey Wheeland is a writer, graphic designer, marketing professional, and mom to her amazing daughter, Zoey. She is the author of the book Blessed, Beautiful Now, a collection of heartfelt essays documenting her post-divorce search to find her authentic self. She is also the creator of The Nostalgia Diaries blog. Corey’s writing has been featured on Motherly, Today's Parent, Red Tricycle, Holl & Lane, and many other online publications.