What happened when I was busy making other plans.

Those Stolen Moments


My daughter, E, nearly nine, is growing up. It’s her job, and one she takes very seriously. I respect that and do my best not to get in her way, and to honor the young lady that she’s becoming.

This is a beautiful and startling age–and since she’s my one and only (aside from my almost-stepson), in many ways all of her stages are as new and fresh to me as they are to her. Now in third grade, E and her friends are growing in so many ways, and dramatically. Seems every time we turn around they look different, have edged up another two inches, their faces now showing real signs of what they will look like when they are older. At this age, they’re picking up information about life, culture, society and assimilating it with astonishing vigor. They’re able to absorb it with a new level of depth and understanding, allowing for deeper, more nuanced discussions about matters large and small, from what it means to be a good person to whether I like blue more than green. (It’s a tie.) They are growing ever more sophisticated and are demanding that we treat them as the young women they’re turning into before our eyes.

I respect that and feel it’s my job to acknowledge and celebrate the big girl she’s becoming. As her mom, though, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt a little. This past summer, driving home from camp one afternoon, E asked me if it would be OK if she called me “Mom” from now on instead of “Mommy.” Gulp. Did she hear that in the back seat? I wondered. My mind said, “She’s growing up. You have to let it happen. Can’t hold her back.” My heart said, “I’ve been demoted!” Were the mushy years behind us? Wow, that went quick. Of course, I agreed–suggesting that if she wanted to call me “Mommy” in private sometimes, or if she just so happened to slip and called me “Mommy,” I was totally OK with that. (Had to get that in.) But if not, “Mom” was fine, too.

Some of the mushy moments we used to have are now being replaced by my awe of all she’s able to do now. On Monday nights, I revel in watching her at her ice skating lessons–not only because of how quickly she’s learning the moves and the excitement and energy she has on the ice, but also because I’m reminded of how far she’s come these past two years, since she was diagnosed with ITP, a rare blood disorder. After her diagnosis in December 2009, for many months she was not allowed to ice skate, participate in physical education, or recess. The risk of injury was too great; any sort of head injury, in particular, could have been life-threatening. Now when I see her zooming around on two blades with abandon, my heart soars as I reflect on how far she’s come and what a big girl she now is.

But the truth is, I don’t want the tenderness of early childhood to end fully. And what she’s teaching me about this age is that those moments may be more fleeting now–and sometimes they seem like stolen moments from another time–but they’re still something we both need and want from one another. I hope that never changes.

This morning at the bus stop reminded me of this evolution. There we were, embroiled in our typical hair-brushing power struggle, she running away from me, me offering her three options: 1) Let me brush the knots out of your hair; 2) You brush them out; or 3) I will make an appointment for a haircut to end all of this fun. (I notice the calmer I say #3, the least-preferred option, the more results I get. Today I was calm, so she came back willingly and brushed her own hair.)

Then, a block away we saw the bus. We had only one minute. This is when I usually would give her a staccato kiss, saying something like, “Quick! Before anyone sees!” Humorously, but acknowledging her desire that this be a private moment. So we did that. But then, just as the bus arrived, in full view of her friends, she gave me a big, long, mushy, impromptu hug.

Smile.

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5 responses

  1. Karen, as the father of a one and only son, I so identify with everything you said. I still mourn a tiny little bit over the day when my then-kindergartner told me he’d walk the rest of the way to school — and we were a half a block away! But I manned-up and said okay and goodbye.

    Now that he’s taller than I am, speaking in a deeper voice than mine, shaving, looking for colleges, driving himself everywhere, I still catch a glimpse of the little boy in the young man he’s become. I miss that little boy so much. I loved him with all my might, and now he’s gone forever. But, as you said, it’s our job not to get in our kids’ way. And it helps that it’s usually very easy to enjoy the people they are becoming.

    When my son was little, when I came in the front door every day, my son would come running from wherever he was in the house, screaming, “Daddy!” and launch himself into my arms. It was the best moment of my life — every single day. Now, he still comes to the door (if he’s home, that is) and still hugs me. (Given his size and my arthritic back, I thank God that he no longer launches.) It’s still the best moment of my life.

    January 6, 2012 at 10:27 am

    • Geoff, Well, now I’m crying! But in a good way. Thanks for your eloquent comments, they allow me to fast-forward eight or so years. I’m glad the tenderness is still there–though in different form–and that we share this joy/sadness feeling. I guess that’s a big part of the whole parenting thing, huh?

      January 6, 2012 at 10:31 am

  2. Ruth Gordon

    Well, Karen.. when I sign some emails “MD”…..please remember that “M” stands for
    MOMMMMMYYYY ( Dearest) : no other M title is meant! The Fabulousness of being a
    Grandparent , is that one can be most MUSHY,GOOSHY,HUGGY,ETC. and usually
    this is accepted or at least tolerated. I remember one Summer when you were leaving for
    camp,maybe you were about eleven when you suddenly became most effusive…even telling me
    you’d miss me…. I was so thrilled…it was after a long,dry spell of littleemotive interchange
    initiated by you….We parents love our offspring always for all their stages!
    x0x0,Love and Good Health Always, MD

    January 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm

  3. Karen

    I know how you feel! Funny how kids are different. Jamey gives me lots of hugs when his friends aren’t around – nowhere near school (I guess at fifteen you don’t really want your “mommy” hugging you). I work where Noah goes to seventh grade (in the seventh and eighth grades), and he always gives me hugs and kisses in front of his friends – Coby too. Sometimes I look at them and can’t believe how old they are – hgh school, middle school, and fifth grade. Where did it all go? When did we get so old? When did they get so old?

    January 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm

  4. Pam

    I love it all… every stage… and you will, too…its kind of like a weaning process…. you get used to it and every stage of their life touches you in a different way…

    January 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm

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