Today we say goodbye. Today I will hold them and we will smile and laugh like it’s any other day, but today we will say goodbye.
I remember when I met them. My hands trembled and my heart beat fast. Complete strangers who needed someone to care for their little girl. Would be I be that someone? Could this be the job I had been praying for? A little waiting said that it was. That bouncing dark-haired bright-eyed little girl became my charge.
We had so many adventures. Long walks down the road, baking chocolate chip cookies, making play dough snakes, pretending we were princesses. There were hard days, too. Days we would butt heads. Days she screamed and refused to eat her green beans. Those days required deep breaths and taught me that patience is more worthwhile than losing my own temper. Even if I wanted to be the one to stomp and scream.
Baby Bird arrived in the Fall. Ten more little fingers and toes to keep my eyes on. Big blue eyes and a ready smile, watching everything big sister did. I wracked my brain for ways to keep Little Bird busy. Some days, it was all I could do to set them in front of a Little Einsteins while I made lunch. But in the early mornings, I would get that baby smile that made me smile back and thank God for my job.
I’ve learned to manage wispy toddler hair. I’ve learned to swaddle. I’ve learned how to distract from the tantrum. I’ve learned when to give second chances. I’ve learned how to use my stern voice. I’ve learned to collect projects for rainy days. I’ve learned how to lay on the floor and help them do puzzles and just be. I’ve learned that some days will need chocolate, but not all of them.
As they’ve grown, we’ve all learned to share. Through the fights and the fits, we’re friends at the end. Little Bird has learned that Baby Bird can be a playmate. Baby Bird has learned how to negotiate. I will find them together playing house or reading books and I smile. The patience was worth it.
If I pressed all the flowers they gave me, if I kept all the pictures, all the post-its with scribbles that I’ve transcribed into their words, I would have a library. I’ve seen their sweet hearts when they say “thank you” to each other. When they look at me, their bright eyes full of excitement at some new wonder. When they give me hugs in the morning. When they say my name.
I don’t know if they’ll remember my stories. I don’t know if they’ll remember my songs. But I hope that I taught them something good. I hope I taught them how to get along. I hope I taught them how to be polite young ladies. I hope I helped them to love books. I hope I showed them to live for each other. I hope they remember how much I love them.
Two and a half years later, we say goodbye. But the memories are here to stay. Shadows of their smiles. Echoes of my name. Pieces of my heart that will be there forever. We have a bond and I don’t intend to let it break. I may not see them as often as I have or would like. I may miss them so much some days that I fear my heart will break. But I will not forget. They are my girls. My little birds. And no matter how far apart we are or how old they grow, they always will be.