Sunday, June 12, 2011

Once the girl in the car ...

Milestones in my daughter J's life invariably reduce me to teary, melancholic moments. Very recently, J came to us and asked to have her long, beautiful hair (which she has kept in tightly wound braids since she was about seven years old) cut very short. Oy ... Here we go. Big changes up ahead I feared.

I have memories of J as a toddler, combing her (then) dark curly hair before school. I would park her in front of the TV with her breakfast - yeah, 'cause I'm a bad mother and it was a laborious process - to watch cartoons while I painstakingly combed out her long tangled hair and brushed it into two curly ponytails with little brightly coloured elastics that matched her outfit for the day. Later we started braiding it. Dad took over because he could do tighter braids and eventually J did it herself. So she's had this hairstyle for at least six or seven years. Time for a change.

On the morning we were to have it cut J muttered reproachfully, "Mommy doesn't want me to do it ..." But that wasn't it exactly. I was feeling a bit blue. I admit there were tears involved (mine not hers) that morning and she gave me a reassuring hug when I tried to explain my reservations about the changes to come which I would never oppose. "You won't get it until you are a mother and you are in this situation," I mournfully replied. She can sympathize but she won't truly understand what I'm thinking.

Of course, her hair looked beautiful when it was cut - it's exactly like my sister's at that age - thick, dark, a bit wavy, luscious and now short. She was happy, we were happy - many compliments all around from family and friends.

What is happening here? I wondered in retrospect. Why the drama on my part? What is the underlying anxiety?

The thing is ... it's not about her, it's about me. She is becoming a young woman and that makes me increasingly nostalgic for the baby she once was and also ... significantly ... the young mother that I used to be.

The other day I was outside tending my lawn and garden. Years ago, such laborious, homebody work would have bored me to tears, a hobby I considered for the old and uninteresting. Today, I feel differently about it – finding it oddly peaceful and relaxing. It's also a good occupation for a writer. It allows ideas to germinate peacefully and slowly I find.

But as I was doing my puttering and watering I noticed a young neighbor who routinely gets picked up by a carload of friends to head off, presumably, to a party or club. Hmm, I wondered, when did I become the lady watering her garden instead of the girl getting into the car to hang out with friends and have a good time?

It was an odd moment - an alarming moment in a way. I realized that all of my "firsts" were slipping away from me ... first love, engagement, marriage, birth of my first and only child, J leaving grade school, J leaving middle school, J now in highschool and starting to think about careers and college/university. Those "firsts" will never return. There is no going back. No more cuddling the baby/toddler in my arms, her head along my arm and her little feet pressed on my thigh as she slept. Alas and alack ...

Of course, I am pleased J is turning into such a lovely young woman. She is more self-sufficient, more confident, is discovering her own style, choosing her own friends, determining her own destiny. All is as it should be. Long gone are the playdates and arranged birthday parties, the tearful hugs and skinned knees that needed kisses to make them better ... hello facebook friends, texting at all hours, formspring, moody silences in the morning and experimenting with life choices that I might not necessarily agree with.

Onward and upward Mama. The kid's growing up. You should be too. Note to self: file this under a la vecchaia!


Cheryl said...

This is the heartbreak of motherhood: to see you child grow up and away from you. But don't worry - they will always need their mama!

Christine said...

Grow up they do but a child will always need their Mother. You will be there -- and ever so treasured -- for all her upcoming firsts. And there will be many more firsts for you, too. Life is always changing and there will be so many new things to experience.

Reading your post made me think about my own Mom when I was a teen. I can't truely ever understand as I am not a parent but I think I do a little more now than I did before.

Family is happiness.

Michelle said...

Oh I'm just a little blue ... but I get it. It's a necessary stage for J.