She barely comes out of her room these days, unless it's to feed or to grab another soda from the fridge. Or to let some out.
Sometimes it's to show me some "hilarious" video she has found on Youtube, that isn't really funny at all but I stop what I'm doing to watch anyway.
Or to show me the latest item she needs for her newest "Cosplay" costume, which I totally don't understand but I say yes anyway because I certainly don't want to stifle her creativity. And it's usually pretty cheap -- even the makeup she had shipped from England.
Yes, I pick on her about the acne she's getting on her face and try to explain (gently) that if she would just wash it regularly....
Same with the dandruff....
And I try hard not to roll my eyes at the wrinkled pants she pulled from the bottom of the pile to wear to school today. I have to pick my battles I guess.
I do try hard to hug her more. And harder. And closer. Especially since Friday when a madman with insane weapons went into a quiet little elementary school in a quiet little town and massacred 26 people -- 20 of them first graders as they huddled in their merry classrooms with their teachers. Some in a tiny bathroom.
I can picture the tiny bathroom our local elementary school has for the first graders, some of whom have tiny bladders and short attention spans. I don't want to picture her in there with her friends, cowered in fear. Or their teacher, mulling any and all options when there are none.
I can still see the little girl with the beautiful curls, the big brown eyes, the pink sweater and the pink sparkly shoes. The bright-eyed, sharp-minded little girl who loved to entertain herself in her room most of the time, but would come out every once in a while to show me something she had drawn or written or made, or to repeat some hysterical line from her latest favorite TV show. Kim Possible mostly.
Who refused to wear anything but pink -- or a princess costume.
Who lost her two front teeth.
Who sang with no fear on a stage in front of a full crowd of Saturday night fair goers, after which she was asked for her autograph.
Whose daddy would pick her up and put her in my bed in the morning as he left for work so that the two of us could cuddle until our alarm went off.
Of course, now that she is an all-grown-up snarky tween it's harder.
She won't come out of her room enough, or hold still long enough, to let me hug her much. And when I do, she just rolls her eyes. When I try to tell her how much I love her and how happy I am that she is here, she sings that exasperated "Mo-oom" song that really sounds like "let me go."
And her dad and I can no longer pick her up at all (except in the pool).
But he still wakes her up every morning. And every morning she groggily climbs the stairs to crawl into bed with me so we can cuddle until our alarm goes off. Then, and pretty much only then, she is still my little girl. Still my baby.
And I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like if she wasn't. Or what it must be like for those parents who no longer have their babies to cuddle with. Ever again.