When a seven-year-old in all her pigtailed, bespectacled glory is bent over her crayon and half-finished masterpiece with all the focus, dedication and madness of the great ones, it’s a rare moment of innocence and purity. You do not, at such a time, expect a question, from those busily humming lips, like “Why don’t Mummy and Daddy stay together anymore?”
It happens, though. You watch and love her from afar as she gapes at princess movies, dances like a clown at the title track of cartoon shows, wears her best frock and goes down to play or cycle. And then one morning she asks you something like that. And you’re supposed to answer it to the best of your capabilities so that you’re taking her seriously without making her lose her innocence.
And she’s going to ask you questions like “I know you like a boy, but why do you like him?” or “What are periods and what are you going to do with that thing you called a pad?” And she’s going to trust you to be honest with her. Based on that, she’s going to decide whether or not to appoint you her confidante. Based on that, she might or might not consult you in the future about her troubles and you get to be or not be aware of what’s going on in her life and whether or not she’s safe.
My niece is growing up much faster than I would like her to, World. I’m looking at her life in a film negatives already. In the last few frames, I’m carrying her in my arms and she’s looking around and pointing with her tiny finger towards the part of you that she’d like me to take her to discover next. She’s stretching to a point above her reach till I lift her up to the point so that nothing is impossible for her. I’m going to fetch something and her chubby legs are following me in a hurry lest I leave her behind, her palm outstretched to grab my surrendered finger and her eyes saying “But I’m also coming, no?” She’s saying words for the first time, words that I might have used plenty of times without thinking twice about them. But they sound so new and sweet from her mouth for the first time that I play the times she said it over and over in my memory and marvel at the way they sound each time.
Within a mere couple of frames, the tiny coconut tree on her head has grown out into two thick pigtails, much longer than mine, falling on each shoulder. Now, she’s questioning everything, using words like ‘awesome’, wearing denim shorts that highlight her prematurely sexy butt and already getting her heart broken by boys.
So, this post is just about being grateful for her presence in my life. This post is to whine about the unimaginable pace of her growth and to worry for her. It is to mourn a bit for the childhood she’s shedding somewhat willingly and somewhat unwillingly.
My child is growing up really fast, World. I just hope she has the strength to cope with you and the eyes to see your beauty. Be gentle with her. Take care that she doesn’t shrivel or wither. And I’ll do that same.