I heard the door open and her little steps scurrying to the side of my bed.
Though my eyes were closed, I could sense that the sun had cast its warm orange hues on the walls of my room.
I rolled over and my eyes fluttered open to meet the gaze of my 3-year-old.
"Mama," she exclaimed, "Is it time for breakfast yet?"
Between the look on her face and the way she said those words, I was startled to reality.
What happened to my baby? What happened to my toddler?
I remember those nights of trying to squeeze in two hours of sleep between feedings. I remember yearning for the day that I could sleep a full seven hours without being startled awake. Now that those days are here, I wish I had enjoyed those long nights of snuggling and holding her.
As I poured the cereal into my daughter's bowl, my mind wandered to a time when I sat across from her and scooped spoonfuls of rice cereal into her eager mouth. It seemed to take forever for her to eat everything. I recall imagining the day that she would be able feed herself. Now that those days are here, I wish I had savored those quiet mornings with her.
As I watched my daughter pull her clothes out of the drawer and dress herself, I recalled how I had battled with a set of snaps every time I had to change her. The monotony of buttoning and unbuttoning her pajamas made me yearn for the day that she could clothe herself. Yet now I long for the days of snuggling her warm body in a fuzzy onesie.
As she played with her trains on the living room floor, I recalled the moments when she would lay on her back and swat at the toys suspended above her head. I remember eagerly anticipating the days that we could play together. Now that she can play independently, she doesn't always want me to join her. How I wish I had enjoyed those explorative activities.
As she ran down the sidewalk to our car my mind went to the time when I had to carry a 20-pound bucket car seat down the same stretch of sidewalk. My arms ached and I longed for the days that she could walk to and from the car by herself. Now I find myself missing those moments of carrying her.
As she pretended to read to me, I reminisced about the days of having to read the same story over and over because she liked it so much. I recall imagining the day that she would have an interest in more than one book. Yet now I find myself missing that excited look on her face when she realized that I would indeed read her favorite book for the eighth time in a row.
As I tuck her into bed, I'm overwhelmed by the memories of lowering her into a crib. I remember how my back would ache and I longingly imagined the day when she could crawl into bed all by herself. Now that the crib is gone, I wish I had lingered more and that I had soaked in the beauty of putting my sweet baby to sleep, every single evening.
"Goodnight," I said softly as I kissed her on the forehead.
I looked into her beautiful eyes and saw the eyes of my baby looking back at me. I remember the first time I held her in my arms and when our eyes met I dreamed of this moment...
"Goodnight Mommy. I love you," she whispered.
I went to bed and as my eyes closed, I realized that all moments fade into memories, but the love between a mother and child will endure forever.