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I tear the corner from the bag and hand it back to her, Skittles for breakfast. It’s not one of my best parenting moments, I’ll admit. However, when we unintentionally won the race against the sun to see who could rise first, rational thinking insisted on sleeping in. I pour a mug of coffee for me and a cup of milk for her and slide into a chair at the kitchen table. She was already sitting on top with her feet dangling over the side, a palm full of round candy impatiently painting her skin while she popped them in her mouth one by one.

It’s Saturday morning and I haven’t had but a few sips of coffee, it’s too early for making plans. I watch her tuck a strand of hair behind her ear and notice how much her face has changed in the last few months. When did her jawline become so noticeable? When did the dimple in her left cheek start appearing as she chewed instead of waiting until she smiled? When did she start talking with her hands and raising her eyebrows separately? I lift the mug to my lips and take another sip of coffee, hot and alarming, the unmistakable taste of reality.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask. It’s a question that comes up every now and then, a check-in of sorts, especially when it feels like she just grew up between blinks, right before my eyes.

She thinks. She tosses her head from side to side and plucks another Skittle from her hand, a pink one, pinching it between her fingers while she finishes chewing the one before it. She swings her feet and the sun, finally joining us, crawls in through the blinds highlighting the few red strands of hair she gets from her mother among the brown from me. “A cat,” she says. “I want to be a cat in a pet store so I could watch people come and go and visit with other animals. I could watch them decide which pet is the right pet for their family and then I could watch them take one home.”

I think about asking a follow up question, but I know her well enough to know she’ll continue on her own so I pick a candy from her hand and I wait. “If I were a cat though, in the pet store, I would help someone choose me. I would know who the perfect fit was and could scratch or hiss or hide from people. I would wait until the person came along that would love me the most and I’d choose them. If you walked into the pet store, would you choose me?” I start to speak, but she already knows my answer. “I’d choose you too,” she says. “Every time.” Agreed, every single time.

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