Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Is This the Little Girl I Carried?

While in Boston this past weekend, we stayed with an old friend, mother of two teenagers. I watched enviously as she slept late and discussed the family's plans as if her kids were roommates rather than children. "She won't be home tonight... He's going out... You might see him tomorrow." As I hovered over Molly as she desperately tried to tackle the racks of papers and stacks of books that seemed to be put right within her reach, as I wrestled pill bottles and fragile glass tchatchkes from the boys' sticky fingers, I thought to myself, this is what I'm moving toward. To a day when there are no diapers to change, no childproofing to worry about, to a day when I no longer have to literally hover over my eagerly exploring children.

But, as my friend wearily explained, when the literal hovering ends, the metaphorical hovering begins. She told me of dinners eaten in silence, her teens shooting her withering looks of condescension. She told me of rude comments and sarcastic asides.

But my friend also encouraged me to visit her daughter in her room, where I found a young woman, a person, not just someone's child. I saw her artwork, smelled her incense, admired her jewelry, and talked to her about colleges and photography.

This is what I've been thinking about this week as Molly turned one. Not her year of amazing milestones--sitting up, crawling, climbing, cruising--but her milestones to come--elementary school, braces, Bat Mitzvah, driver's license. Because if it seems that in the blink of an eye, she went from this:

To this:

Then how long will it feel like before she's taller than I am? How long until I worry about whether or not she's drinking alcohol rather than whether she's drinking enough milk? How long until the adorable baby who loves me best of all slams the door in my face and utters the most dismissive of teenage insults: "Whatever."

I know, I know, this is all a bit melodramatic for a simple birthday post. (The end of the school year always does this to me.) So I'll close with a simple, "Happy Birthday Molly!" and a note to her future self:

"Molly, I love you. And I'm much cooler than you think I am."

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