In between all the festivities and Christmas bustle, our girl turned six.

I’m currently reading Hands Free Life, and something the author wrote resonated with me, as I’m sure it must with all other mommies out there.

‘And although my rational mind knew I would love the older version of my beautiful child just as much this pocket-sized one, my heart hurt knowing I would never see her just like this again.’

I still have those moments when I want to hug my baby tight and beg her never to grow up, to stay exactly as she is. When I look back at the photographs of her over the last six years, I am amazed by everything. The sweet innocence, the starfish hands, the toothless smiles, the unsteady, determined steps when she first learned to walk. The physical changes, all of them accompanied by behind-the-scenes growing up. Dummies, nappies and formula, relinquished one by one. The way her chubbiness melted away, and the sadness I felt the first time she slept without her beloved ‘lala’.

Six years into this parenting gig, and my smiling, compliant baby has turned into a small human with very definite thoughts, opinions and desires of her own. It isn’t always easy, especially since her and I are so very similar in many ways (an endless source of amusement for my parents).

But oh. There is so, so much I absolutely love about right now.

Her independence, which means I can sleep in for an hour after she wakes up in the morning, because she can quietly keep herself busy. The same goes for afternoon naps - who knew I'd be able to have those again?

Her empathy for the world around her. Mama. I feel so shamed for these beggars, because they have no clothes and nowhere to live.

Her sheer physical energy, which has a life force of its own – always playing, running, jumping, and swimming swimming swimming. She’s constant movement and constant motion.

Her gentle, generous heart.

Her easy laugh, the way she sings her way through her days, her sense of humour, and her gracious way of postponing things she wouldn’t like to do now.

Her ability to squeeze such an unbelievably huge amount of LIVING into a 24-hour period.

But mostly what I love is the connection. A chosen thing, that goes beyond mother/child dependence, and moves into a completely different space. The mornings when we have fingertip hugs at the robots on the way to school. The evenings when we curl up together, talking and snuggling and trying to outdo each other with ‘I love you more than…’.  The times when we whisper ‘I’m sorry’ to each other, because we were both in the wrong and we’re both grownup enough to admit it. The constant, tiny, thoughtful gifts when she isn’t with me: flowers, drawings, insects, uncountable tiny treasures presented with love and pride. Reading in bed, which now comes with questions, and observations, and feelings to explore. Hand holding, and tickles, and singing to our favourite songs. Holidays exploring new places, talking about what we’ve seen, what we’ve done, what we liked and what we didn’t like. Weaving dreams together for the future (a Paris trip when she turns sixteen, Christmas in the snow, ice skating at Rockefeller Centre). Cooking and washing up together.

Small, sparkling moments that always outshine the mistakes and the stumbles along the way.

Some pictures celebrating our special girl turning six.

:: We had a Paw Patrol party. Which was totally trumped by the wave slide. The day of her party was overcast and chilly, but the kids threw themselves down that waveslide, blue lips and all.

:: A Barbie after-party with her dad, once all the gifts were opened.

Every year on her actual birthday, I take the day off  work. Sometimes we do something special, sometimes we just hang out and enjoy the day. This year, we took her and a friend for a day of sun, 'sea' and sand at the Valley of Waves.

:: I loved watching these two together. The way Nosi (who is much taller) helped her jump up over the waves, hovered over her, checked that she was okay the whole time.

:: Wardrobe malfunctions. I caught this picture of them on the bridge, Immy re-tying the bikini top for the hundredth time that morning.

:: Exploring Adventure Mountain. Last time we were here, she couldn't swim. Now, it's all we can do to keep up.

:: The Wave Pool. They spent virtually every second of the day in this pool. I would watch anxiously as those huge wave rolled in, crashing over them, while they went tumbling head over heels to be washed up in the shallow end, laughing and choking on mouthfuls of water.

:: A rare photo of me and my girl.

I took this photo just before we left, after hours spent in the pool, and in the sun. We weren't in the car five minutes before they had passed out, curled up on the backseat.

It was a perfect day.

I've been rushing around all day, doing laundry, washing dishes, sweeping and mopping. Immy has been quietly helping, or playing in the background. I told her how proud I am of her, of how well she behaved all day and she said: Well mama. Six year olds always behave, and they never give up on they mamas. 

Which doesn't make sense entirely, but I'll take it.

To six.

And to standing on the edge of the old year, arms outstretched, ready to step off the edge into 2016.

Happy new year!