My own age has never concerned me a great deal. I was happy to turn 30, am OK with turning 35 in February, and sort of resigned to 40 not being a billion miles away.
But I do NOT feel old enough to have a four-year-old! Four feels like a significant age. The age at which most children start school. I'm still getting my head around the idea that, in a few months time, this beautiful girl will be a schoolchild. That feels like a whole new level I am not in the least bit ready for.
I have deliberately never talked to Cherry about her being 'a big girl'. I really don't like the way growing up and adulthood is held up to be superior, and I doubly dislike the way age becomes a subtle and creeping form of bribery. (Big girls don't need to come into Mummy and Daddy's bed!)
When other people talk to Cherry about being 'a big girl' or if she asks me if she is big, I am always at pains to point out that we can feel big and little at the same time. To Cherry, I am a 'big girl'. To my mother, probably still her baby. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
And yet four feels significant still because now is the time that Cherry will really start to remember. When she is a grown adult, she will probably (I hope) remember her fourth birthday.
I wonder what she will remember?
Getting on a train to London in a glittering gold and green dress, going to the theatre and sitting on her Mummy's knee, eating lunch in a 'pizza pub', seeing pelicans in St James' Park?
The cherry blossom I picked for her?
Christmas lights, sparkle and magic?
The colour of the train she rode in?
How loved she is?
Me becoming annoyed with her for being difficult about going to bed?
Birthdays are still days, after all.
Cherry's birthday marks a birthday for me too - the birth of myself as a mother. The longer I inhabit the space of motherhood the more I realise I have to learn.
When Cherry was six months old I was pretty sure I had motherhood all figured out. I had a baby who was thriving, sleeping, not crying all the time, and I felt 'myself' again.
I would have said I was getting good at motherhood.
Three and a half years later and I am only just beginning to understand how little I know. How much there is to learn. That motherhood isn't a job to be completed, a task to be ticked off. Motherhood doesn't require a baby in your arms, a toddler at your feet or a teenager on a gap year. Motherhood is a state of being, an irrevocable change that lasts a lifetime.
I have always felt, from the second Cherry was born, that motherhood is neither a right nor a privilege.
It's a gift.
She is a gift.
And that I get to learn and grow right alongside this magnificent girl feels like the greatest gift of all. I will be grateful to her, and her sister, until the end of time.