"Mom?" my 10 year-old daughter asked me today. "Do moms want their kids to cry when they bring them to school?"
Huh? I thought. What kind of question is that?
She was watching this Disney Channel show called "Good Luck Charlie." As Disney shows go, it's a pretty good one. Cute kids, sharp writing, interesting characters and a really cute little girl named Charlie. (Plus they have this awesome house. Their refrigerator has been painted with chalk board paint so they can leave all kinds of messages on it. And I would kill for their turquoise living room sofa.)
I wasn't really paying that much attention to it. She was watching while I surfed the web nearby.
But then I heard her high pitched little voice say, "Aw," in that sing songy, "That was sooooo cute" tone. Then she hit me with that loaded question.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Watch." She rewound the DVR to show me a scene where the mom is bringing little Charlie to preschool. Mom, on the verge of hysteria, tells Charlie to be brave and that she'll be back really soon to pick her up, then she asks for a hug. Charlie, on the verge of leaving the nest and going off to college (even though she's only about 4), turns on her heel and runs into the classroom without a backward glance, leaving mom a withering mess in the hallway.
"Why is the mom sad," Lora asked. "Did she want her to cry?"
And I had to explain that the answer is Yes. And no.
"Well," I said. "When moms bring their little babies to school at first, we want them to be brave and have fun. But a little piece of us also wants you to miss us too. We want you to need us."
And that little vignette really hit home.
My baby girl is only 10 1/2. Not even close to being grown. But as far as she's concerned, my work as a mom is done.
She can comb her own hair (she thinks). She can set her own water for the shower. She can pick out her own clothes (um .. sort of).
She can put herself to bed.
She also can roll her eyes at me with perfection.
Saturday afternoon as we relaxed in the pool on our vacation, I was surrounded by parents playing with their children. Mine swam away from me. Pretended she didn't know me. Left me. Alone.
Then when we stopped for a lunch break on our way home I waited by the door to help her get out of the third row seat of my SUV.
"You can go," she said, thoroughly exasperated. "I can do this."
Really? Am I really supposed to just walk away? What happened to my little girl? Why doesn't she need me anymore.
I got my first reality check when I realized that I was only able to hold my daughter for about 3 1/2 years. After that she was too heavy. Then she was too big.
I know some moms of my daughter's friends who still can pick up their petite little 10-year-olds. I can't. She's already almost as tall as me. She already has stolen several pairs of my shoes. I can still pick her up in the pool, but she won't let me.
Somehow I am trying to figure out how God gave me a husband who refuses to grow up and a child who grew up so fast I missed it.
That's just not fair.
While I can't hold over her head the whole "I carried you for nine months and went through 20 hours of labor," line like most moms do, I can (and do) tell her, "I waited a long time to be a mom. You have to let me."
But she just rolls her eyes at me.
This week my "baby" will begin the fifth grade. But I can still remember that first day of preschool. Marty and I driving her there with her little Kim Possible book bag. It was not long after Hurricane Katrina had devastated our area and disrupted our lives. She started school nearly a month late because of it, and she and her friends spent much of the year playing evacuation from the little house in her classroom.
"Did you cry when you brought me to school?" she asked me today.
"Of course I did! It meant my baby was growing up and leaving me."
"Aw," she said.
Little did I know it was just the beginning.
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