Tuesday, April 26, 2016

You are 10

You are 10.

Hard to believe.

I can't say that I wasn't warned this would go quickly.

Just the other day I rushed your very pregnant mom to the hospital in the middle of the night. I remember the nervousness I felt about everything that could possibly go wrong as I attempted to help her relax in those early morning hours before you arrived.

The room where she lay in the hospital was abuzz with activity almost as if a symphony was slowly building as it reached the crescendo. Doctors and nurses entered and exited as cymbals crashed, drums boomed and violins played at dizzying speeds.

And then; then you were here.

I know it sounds cliche - but cliches are cliches for a reason - but from the second I was handed this cute, little girl and I held her in my arms, everything changed. It was as if the world, which had been blurry all this time, suddenly came into perfect focus. I looked down at you, you sort of made eye-contact; playing hard to get. I stood there, in my hospital gown, unshaven, groggy and momentarily unaware of anything around me.

The panic and excitement of the previous hours and days had quickly melted away as time stood still as I just held you. I raised you to my face, listened to your tiny, but strong heart beat, felt your warm breath on my cheek and then I kissed your amazingly soft skin so gently and I cried, liked I'd never cried before.

As I stood there next to your mom in that hospital room on that early morning in April back in 2006, I immediately felt a love that was all encompassing and though I eventually passed the newborn - our newborn - back to the nurse, I've never let you go since.

Every moment of everyday since I think about you and how lucky I am that I get to be your dad.

And now you are 10.

Where has the time gone?

Just the other day you were this little baby.

We spent hours laying on the floor, next to each other, as you batted the hanging colourful toys with your tiny feet, eyes darting playfully around the room.

I'd come home from work, grab you off your mom and we'd venture forth exploring the outside, going for long walks together, or more accurately I'd be walking, while you got to hang out and focus on being adorable, being carried or pushed around. I feel that it is important to be honest about who was really doing the work. When not asleep, you'd be wide awake in your stroller just talking and talking making the cutest sounds imaginable. You didn't make much sense back then, when you were one.

Over time you learned to roll over, crawl, walk, run and climb - in that order. I was so proud when you took your first step. I remember thinking "I taught her that" - there was no way your mom was getting that one. I'm still waiting for a simple thanks, by the way.

From an early age you just loved the water and we'd go to the pool at 8am every Saturday or Sunday to give your mom a chance to sleep in. Always the brave one, you were on the diving board, this tiny person, all eyes on you as you jumped with reckless abandon into the deep water again and again. I dreaded leaving the pool as you would wail uncontrollably when it was time to go. Don't worry, I fully plan to wail uncontrollably at your graduation or wedding one day. Even as a baby you could have swam all day.

Meal time would come and I'd microwave another homemade pureed and frozen entree for you as you banged both fists on the flimsy tray in anticipation of more food. No matter how hard your mom and I attempted to steer the spoon into your mouth, the area under and around your highchair (not to mention the walls and the ceiling) were always splattered with a colourful array of painstakingly created meals for you.

And, after bathing, I'd patiently and gently bounce with you on our big exercise ball (never used for exercise even once), cradling you in my arms, singing Frank Sinatra songs horribly off-key, just hoping to get you to fall asleep.

We took hundreds and hundreds of photos of our beautiful little girl in those early days and in my mind's eye I see them...

You with the tiny white flower behind one ear, wearing a wide-brimmed summer's hat, grinning from ear to ear.
You, in black-and-white, crawling in front of me on a deserted beach, our shadows looming large.
You, in your high-chair, chocolate cake everywhere, as happy as can be.
You, feeling sick that day, passed out, asleep on your mom, mouth slightly agape.
You, looking quizzically at the world, wearing a colander on your head, sitting inside a kitchen drawer.

All of these amazing memories of the time when you were small.

And then, in a heartbeat, you grew.

All of a sudden, you were in daycare and then entering school and now you are 10.

In the blink of an eye, that adorable little baby has grown up into this awesome big kid who tap dances, plays piano, swings a mean squash racquet, does back bends, can cook her own breakfast and loves braiding hair. 

Now, I don't want to start an argument with anyone, but you are easily one of the top people who has ever existed in the history of the universe and you are only 10! Not that I'm biased or anything.

You are funny and creative and sarcastic and athletic and literal ("you want me to drink my water bottle, dad?") and musical and beautiful and smart. A perfect mix of your mom and I - it's like some mad chemistry teacher went into a lab and created you. (note to the reader: that is not what actually happened...I think).

I look at you when you are reading on the couch or swinging in the park or turning over rocks on the beach or throwing a frisbee or as I attempt to rouse you for school each morning and I'm taken back in time.

I see that little baby each time I look at you and my heart melts and my eyes water slightly.
I see that little girl that changed my world totally and completely.
I see that little kid who made me a father, something I had always wanted.
I see the older of my two amazing daughters, one of the three cool females I am honoured and blessed to share my life with.
I see this person whom I am infinitely proud of.
I see Charlotte Lynn Paley; this curly-haired strawberry-blonde, giggling and cackling, silly-voice-making, imaginative girl who captured my heart 10 years ago today and has had it ever since.

I'm so excited to see what the next year will bring and the future, though I want it to stay away for as long as it can, is just so bright. I have no doubt that whatever direction you go and whatever path you choose, it will be exciting to cheer you on, give advice, provide a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold or high five.

But all of that can wait for another day, because for now, you are still this cute, young and playful kid with the most wonderful smile I've ever seen and it's your birthday.

You are 10.