It really hit hard this morning, just out of the blue. I don’t even know exactly how it happened. I just had two little girls who liked to go crawl through the tube slides at the playground and pick out treasures at the dollar store and blow bubbles and draw with sidewalk chalk. They’d run to me if they scraped a knee or an elbow or if the mean kindergartener at the top of the slide wouldn’t let them pass. They would settle in as close to me as they could get when they were sleepy, so close that we were almost the same person, and tell me all kinds of things.
I had a teensy little pixie with blonde ringlets who would skip around singing little made-up songs in her little pixie voice. I had a pair of little delicate noodle arms that smelled like sunshine (yes, sunshine does have a smell) from being outside, carefully and pensively studying the comings and goings of the inhabitants of a tiny patch of grass.
I had a solid little ball of sass who liked to paint the wall with sunscreen when my back was turned or run full-force into couch cushions and belly laugh with some serious gusto, friends. I had rolls on chunky baby thighs capable of trucking their determined little owner into more mischief faster than I could blink and then she’d chuckle so big that I couldn’t help but laugh along with my chunky cherub.
And then those little girls were just…gone. No more little pixie. Gone is the chunky cherub. Poof! Replaced with beautiful creatures who debate the pros and cons of Nair versus shaving. Instead of asking me to tie their shoes for them, the requests I get are more likely to be to the tune of, “Hey mom, could you adjust my bra strap? This thing’s pinching my boob.”
I love these young ladies as much and maybe even more than their pixie and cherub predecessors. They’re amazing. I adore who they are now, both because of and separate from the pixie and the cherub. And, lucky, lucky me, they still come to me when they’re hurt (although now it’s less likely to be a scrape on the knee so much as a hurt of the heart). And when I’m really lucky, they each still occasionally want to curl up next to me for a moment of quiet, so close that we’re almost the same person, and they will talk to me about all kinds of things.
It’s just this: Even though they are only 13 and 10, I have become super aware of how little time I have until the requests become, “Hey, mom, can I have the car keys so that I can disappear for hours on end with no adult supervision in which you can’t be certain that I’m alive or dead because I probably will not answer my phone because I’ll be making out with a boy who just got out of juvie?” and then, “Hey mom, can you help me plan a quick wedding? We’ll only be five states away and I’m sure we’ll make it back for visits at least every two or ten years.”
Or, you know, maybe not that exactly but something like that.
The Letting Go. That’s what it is that I dread. And not only do I dread it, but I fear doing it wrong and messing up the job I’ve been so proud of up until then. You know, you can’t be too clingy…you’ll push them away and make them resent you. You also can’t be too permissive…they’ll find themselves somewhere they aren’t ready to be and you’ll have failed them. Somewhere in between, there’s a magical sweet spot that I have to hope to achieve.
So I guess I just have to take a deep breath and see that the pixie is now the author of stories, the so very rational advice-giver to her friends, the intentionally un-“cool” yet still so cool girl with the quick, dry wit.
My cherub is the girl who loves justice, the softie who comes down hard all frowny-browed at anything less, who’s quick to grin, seeker of the quietest person in the room, pulling them into her bright light and making them her co-star.
And I know they’ll be okay (though that won’t stop my fretting). Which means maybe I’ll be okay too. And maybe if I’m super, super lucky, it won’t be too much to hope that even if just very rarely…sometimes they’ll still curl up beside me, so close that we’re almost the same person, and talk to me about all kinds of things.