I was awoken this morning by the sweet, soft baby-like voice of my 6-year-old as she leaned in close and whispered into my ear, “Mommy, can I sleep with you?” Half asleep and not quite sure whether I was dreaming or awake, I scooted over and made room in for her in my warm bed, we snuggled close because I know these moments are fleeting with every day that passes; soon she will stop coming to me for comfort in the middle of the night.
It’s not always like this. Sometimes, she presses her face close to mine, loudly announces her presence and startles me into consciousness and my first reaction is to take her immediately back to her own bed but not today. This is what all the parenting books teach us to do, right? But why? What’s more important; following some guideline or embracing all the moments of childhood? Life is short and I plan on stealing all the moments with my children that I can.
We’ve been completely enveloped in the Nutcracker for the past two weeks, in case you were wondering where I’ve been. It’s been an emotional and exhausting time for all of us. No time for distractions, I want to be present. I don’t want to miss a moment of any of it.
Gabs approached her first season with trepidation. I gently nudged her to continue on, as mothers do. Reassuring her that I will always be there, when she turns around to support and love her. Bella only needs my presence now as a touchstone of normalcy in all the chaos; to calm the opening night jitters and do her make-up. Gabi looks to Bella to calm her. My role in all of this is like a beloved and worn pair of ballet slippers. I am comfortable and familiar.
I’ve been backstage the entire time, just like every year, providing moral support, reassurance and love…when requested otherwise keeping my distance to let my girls grow and shine. It’s a delicate balancing act to let go and still keep hold of our children. But, once they take the stage, I exhale. I watch from stage left with pride and love as I choke back the tears as Tchaikovsky swells throughout the theater. This has become a sort of a love song to my daughters.
I can’t hear the Waltz of the Snowflakes without tearing up as I remember my Bella taking the stage for the first time at 5-years-old as my tiny ethereal snowflake. When I hear the battle scene, I remember my little soldier and tiny mouse that bravely took the stage and danced even when she began to feel fluish. My heart nearly bursts out of my chest when the orchestra begins to play the Enchanted Palace and the Kingdom of sweets because I can see my Bella, my angel, floating under the house lights as the smoke machine transforms the stage into a magical place.
The same thing happens now, when I hear the music for the dance of Arabian Coffee. You might hear beautiful music, I see my Gabs dressed as a parrot taking the stage for the first time ever, trying her damnest to remember the intricate dance. I see the nervous smile that only I know is nerves and not stage presence. I feel the relief and pride in her hug as she safely exits stage right and lands safely back into my familiar arms. I see the side-glances and smiles meant just for me off stage. I know the comfort they take that I am there and it makes me happy these stolen moments that we have together, that no one else knows about.
Parenthood is big and all consuming sometimes it feels like a job instead of an honor but it is, you know? The greatest privilege I’ve ever had is stealing moments with these two amazing creatures that I get to call my daughters and now, I must rouse everyone from their slumber because we’re not done yet. We have three more performances; three more chances to soak in these once in a lifetime moments that we so often take for granted.
It’s so easy to get lost in the holiday season and obsess over making it the perfect holiday that it becomes a chore. This has happened to us every year but this year, we made the conscious decision to make the moments together count. It’s not about what it looks like to other people; it’s not about things. It’s about what it feels like. It’s cuddling during down time watching Christmas movies, it’s about making fudge with daddy and cookies with grandma. It’s about letting the girls decorate one tree any way they want to without moving or straightening a single ornament. It’s about stealing kisses with my husband and moments with our daughters.
What’s your favorite stolen moment?