She looks at me with distress that crumples her brow. We are walking her big sister home from school, and she has abruptly stopped, and tugged at my hand.
“Mumma?”, her voice full of worry.
“My legs have all run out of walking!”. She looks down at the useless offenders, and back to me, tears in her eyes, hopeful I’ve got the solution to this conundrum.
She is nearly five. It’s not, “I’m tired”. It’s not, “I don’t want to walk anymore”. It’s not even, “Mumma, can you carry me?”. It’s genuine concern that this aching, this afternoon fatigue, is a sign of her body failing her, because she doesn’t yet realise that her mind has more energy than her body could possibly keep up with.
We make it home after I assure her that her legs have definitely got enough walking to complete the journey, and she curls into my lap to rest a little before the afternoon surge arrives and she’s begging to go and play.
She is right on the cusp of little and big. She will start school at the beginning of next year, and her imagination has never been bigger. This isn’t a child who understands black and white, this whirlwind of energy is a girl who lives in her own universe and sees in fluorescent pink.
Gone is the stubbornly defiant hurricane toddler whose favourite word is “no”. This child is wild and carefree, but gentle, gracious and loyal. She throws a great sulk, but is generally willing to please, and happily follows instructions. Sharing and giving have come naturally to her altruistic heart, she has a warm, infectious laugh, and a sparkling smile. She lights up the room, she waves at strangers in the supermarket and she regales us with hilarious stories as a favourite past time at the dinner table.
She admires her sister but has come to recognise that she has her own negotiation skills and doesn’t as easily accept being bossed around. She is content playing alone, but prefers company, and doesn’t easily tire of friendships.
Her hair is long and untamed, though the ringlet baby curls are gone. She’s losing her puppy fat, the dimples on her hands are discreetly vanishing, her legs lengthening, and she carries herself differently to accommodate her ever growing height.
She speaks in fast sentences with a vocabulary beyond her years. She is difficult to slow down. She’s determined and daring and not easily cautioned. She thrives off affection, and melts in my arms when she’s sad. I frequently wake in the night to find she has snuck into our bed, and is carefully stroking my face as she sleeps, or has tucked herself up under her stepdad’s arms, and is snoring softly on his chest.
This childhood littleness is so fleeting, and each day it feels as if her bigness is becoming more prominent.
She’s our littlest, and she’s nearly five.