Five years old sort of makes it all official. They’re not babies any more.
If that was a bitter pill to swallow when Colin turned the page two years ago; it makes today even more bittersweet – as I look to my Little Princess, Daddy’s Little Girl, growing in leaps and bounds with every day. With the end of her preschool career mere weeks away, and the knowledge that after that increasingly shorter spell of Summer that looms ahead will likely be consumed before we know it, Aria is headed to kindergarten and hence a full day session of schooling, five days a week – there is the inescapable fact that another chapter in her own personal storybook is shuttered for good.
Daddy’s Little Girl is growing up and despite the fact that I can vanquish the mightiest of bedtime beasties whenever her sweet little voice travels forth in search of her fearless father, there is nothing I can do to stop, or even slow, the march of time.
That’s the bane of parents everywhere. Sure, we’ve lassoed high technology and have managed to somehow snap, shoot and film a real time play-by-play of our progeny’s lives, but aside from sneaking a sojourn on Snapfish or tip-toeing through those elaborate scrapbooks that every Mom is always two to three years behind on, there’s nothing more we can do to hold them still. Where eternal life has vexed everyone from the Incans to the Los Angelese, it takes a proud Papa to realize that it’s not the Fountain of Youth we quest for ourselves – it’s what we desire for our children. To keep them forever young.
It’s a fool’s errand and the sooner we realize this, the better off we are. That being said, we may have to take our medicine but it doesn’t mean we have to like the taste.
One way to chase the bittersweet is to focus on the delights of each day. And sure, life gets crazy and we find ourselves blitzkrieged on all sides by an ever-growing litany of problems, issues and concerns… Hell, I know this as much as anyone having spent the last 11 months seeking gainful employment while striving to keep our kids insulated from our Big Bad Real World concerns. So, I write this in a bid to remind myself of what’s most important. We can’t freeze time but we can slow it a bit if we just sit for a spell and soak in their lives… their interests… their fun.
And what I’ve noticed with Aria, as she closes in on five, is how similar she is to me. She is a girl after her Daddy’s Heart. Sure she’s a Princess – pledging allegiance to Ariel, Briar Rose, Tiana and whomever else dons the Disney Tiara but she’s also got an affinity for Mario, Luigi and the rest of the Rogue’s Gallery that populate the Mushroom Kingdom. Besides, she can always take heart that at the beginning of each day, Princess Peach is gonna’ find some way to get herself captured by that brute Bowser. While her brother Colin enjoys playing a game or two with Dad, it’s Aria that seeks me out often to play alongside. As a lifelong video game fan, it’s fun to see these brave new worlds come to life in her imagination.
The same goes for the sports. I didn’t grow up a sports nut but I did become one at some point along the line. Aria seems to have picked up on this and is prone to quiz me on the ins and outs of baseball lore – even if for some inexplicable reason, she and Colin believe the MLB consists of two teams only. No matter how much I tell them otherwise, they believe that the Red Sox battle the Yankees 162 times a year. You know, every once in awhile kids, Luke needs to take down a Rancor. It’s not always the Evil Empire giving him fits.
But it’s not all fun and games. There is that genuine affection that she carries for dear old Dad. She has the innate ability to know when a day has taken my spirits down a notch – despite my best efforts to keep the kids none-the-wiser when the hunt for gainful employment weighs hard and heavy. She just uses her sixth sense to intuit it, and then seeks me out and wraps me in the biggest hug her tiny arms can muster. And in that embrace, my cares dissolve. That’s the magic handed down among Little Princesses. They all possess the power to brighten the gray.
Over the last year, I’ve also noticed a wicked comedy streak grow in her. She lives to laugh and laughs loudest at herself. She cracks herself up and in turn gets me giggling. She’s cut from my cloth – always looking to bring a smile no matter how foolish the sentiment we’re chasing. Life’s way too short to let doom and gloom rule the day and she has this way of just subverting all that and leaving us laughing.
It was a week ago when I spied my mirror image. Over breakfast, I was going through the normal motions. Taking a bite of toast, a sip of juice, a mouthful of coffee, talking to the kids, exchanging good mornings with Andi, with all the assorted little tics scattered throughout the everyday routine. Out of the corner of my eyes, I spied my doppelganger as Aria pantomimed my every move. It was like that great scene in Jaws, where after a rough day, Brody bonds with his youngest boy over dinner – the child copying every move the Chief made. Here was Aria aping one of my favorite scenes from one of my most treasured movies – all without ever having seen it. And once again, she applied that unbreakable hold upon my heart.
In a few short months, Aria takes another step along her road of life. But before that, on this day, she says goodbye to those first fledgling days of childhood and makes her mark on her Fifth Year.
No matter what the day may bring nor the number of years that burn from the calendar, she’ll always be my precious Little Princess.
My beautiful little girl.
Happy Fifth Birthday, Aria Leigh.