Her hands are not so tiny anymore. They are strong and sure and push mine away when I go to zip up her coat. Her eyes have stopped flickering towards me in the park.
She gives me a thumbs up from the slide- It's her assuring me now. Last week my four-and-a-half year old told me I could 'head off' when I dropped her to a party. When her dad and I argued over a stray tissue in the washing machine, she told us both to chill out and eat our dinner.
I know it must have happened gradually. You don't simply leave your babyhood behind at Montessori on a given day. In a blink, my baby is no longer a baby. I remember longing for the days where she could dress herself and articulate her problems so we could solve them faster.
I couldn't wait until she was old enough to talk about her interests and start reading Harry Potter so we could obsess together. Now, as she lists off her favourite dinosaurs in order, I find myself longing for that baby who only needed me. Who didn't have a packed lunch and a uniform and a schedule. Whose little gurgles sounded through the room as I dressed her and blew raspberries into her tiny tum.
I miss the days when she would wake me with her precious babbling from her cot. That was the best sound in the world, a happy baby waking to bring her mama joy in the morning.
I barely remember the difficult times where coughs would echo through the house and her dad and I would brace ourselves for another up-all-night. Or the all-nighters for no other reason than to hang out with mum at 3 am.
At the time I wished she was in her own room with the ability to blow her own nose. Now I dream of falling asleep to the sound of her tiny snores and sudden night-giggles- yes they are a thing and they're AMAZING.
As I remember the baby she was, I can't quite accept that that baby is gone forever. That videos and photos are all I have left of those curls and the way she said 'I love you' as a two-year-old.
She has a different way of saying it now. Now, she asks if she can help me with the dinner- though we are still not at a stage where she could really help. She asks me if we can do a duet at night rather than me singing a lullaby.
She draws pictures of us shopping and walking on the beach. She makes me look strong and happy and herself, just a slightly smaller version of me. Now I have a new best sound in the world.
It is the sound of her laughing confidently at her own jokes and telling me the eating habits of a pterodactyl. It's her asking me about my day after I ask about hers. And sometimes, she wakes up early and talks to herself in her big girl bed. The babbling has been replaced by idle chit chat- and though I miss the baby she was, the person she's become is just as precious.