As a mother of two, I find it can be challenging to carve out one-on-one time with each of my daughters. But on that autumn day – with her little sister at an after-school playdate and Dad still at work – Elissa and I serendipitously found ourselves with a small, golden window of alone time.
In a bid to capitalize on the gorgeous fall weather, we opted for a bike ride. The late afternoon sun seemed to be smiling down on us as we pedalled lazily around the neighbourhood, taking note of the trees that were starting to show their changing colours.
Passing an elementary school playground, Elissa asked if we could stop and play. It was only after we’d taken off our helmets that she noticed a small splash pad – and was surprised to see that its fountains were still flowing. “Hey Mom – look at that! Let’s go jump through the water and cool off!”
I was surprised and charmed to see that my gangly tween had not yet entirely outgrown the splash pad – a place I associated with much younger children. It was sweet to see her doing something so child-like; it seemed like lately Elissa’s focus had shifted from swings and stuffed toys to purses and phone calls. In fact, she even requested that her dad and I call her a ‘tween,’ telling us, “I’m not a kid anymore!”
Yet here she was, dodging between sprinklers and laughing uproariously on this unscripted, blessed day of Indian summer. I cupped some water in my hands and tried to spray her, but she moved away too quickly. I tried again, this time chasing her far into the grassy field around the splash pad; both of us laughing so hard that it was difficult to run effectively.
Amidst the joy of the moment, I felt a distinct pang in my heart as I was suddenly struck with how much time had elapsed since she was a toddler and I used to bring her to splash pads like this. I remember how I used to inwardly cringe when people would repeat that old cliché, “They grow up so fast.” Easy for you to say, I’d think to myself as I struggled to juggle life with a toddler, a newborn and a husband who, at the time, was required to travel constantly for work.
But they were right, those well-intentioned strangers. Because 10 years later I can see that it’s true – they do grow up so damn fast.
As our bike tires crunched over the gravel path leading away from the splash pad, a couple of yellowed leaves drifted downwards. Slowing her pace, Elissa called out to me over her shoulder, “I’m glad you like having fun, Mom; you’re not one of those boring, creepy moms who doesn’t like to do anything.”
I laughed at her candor and the veiled compliment, then sent up a silent prayer of thanks for this simple, precious afternoon we had together – just the two of us. The season is changing, but that day will be one to cherish forever.