Yesterday she made her own breakfast for the first time without my help.
And if it seems to you a little odd that my daughter would be doing this fairly simple task for the first time at age 9, well, I’d say you’re likely onto something.
Sigh. It’s hard, isn’t it — the letting go?
When they’re little, everything is so clear, so crisply defined. You hold their hand, you wipe their butt, you do what needs to be done – which is, really, everything or almost everything – because they need you. They need you and need you and need you, and there is no clear point at which they shift from that all-consuming needing-to-be-taken-care-of to the opposite pole of needing-to-be-let-go-of. There are no signposts, no obvious markers along the path to tell you when it’s time to release the parental death grip and give them control.
And allow me to let you in on something relevant here, something telling: I actually felt guilty for having her make her own breakfast. Yes, you heard correct: guilty. I know, I’m insane, right? But not making my child’s breakfast felt… strangely, almost instinctively negligent on my part somehow. Because isn’t that what Moms do – what *I* do? What does it mean to not do that? Am I being a bad Mom by not doing that? OH HAI, WELCOME TO MY NEUROSIS – PULL UP A CHAIR AND GRAB YOURSELF A DRINK, HOLMES.
Of course I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say something about how one of the difficult things about being a parent is that the job changes. That what your kid needs at ages 3, 5, 8, and 11 is not the same. That there comes a time when giving them control, power, and independence is what’s best for them, and that to do otherwise is to stifle their development. Intellectually, I know this. I’ve read the same manuals you have. But the fact remains that my GUT – including my squishy-soft Mother’s heart – clearly didn’t get the memo, AND BESIDES SHE’S STILL MY BABY AND WILL ALWAYS BE MY BABY NO MATTER HOW BIG AND COMPETENT AND NOT-NEEDING-ME SHE GETS, GODDAMMIT.
This morning we arrived at school a bit too early for drop off.
Me: Just stay in the car with me until they open the doors. I don’t want you hanging around outside without an adult for 10 minutes.
Her: Mom, it’s right in front of the school. I do it all the time when Dad drops me off.
Me: Really? Oh. Well.
Me: Uhh, okay. Well, then, umm, just sit on the steps right by the door then, okay?
Her, pecking me on the cheek: I love you.
Me: I love you too. Have a good day!
Her: I will!
Me: Don’t talk to strangers!
Her: [eyeroll, closes car door behind her]
I sat there in the car watching her slowly work her way toward the general area of the school’s steps, but somehow felt I couldn’t leave. I turned my left signal on, making as though I would merge into traffic and disappear, but I kept hesitating, watching her. Hovering, for crissakes. Finally, she caught a glimpse of me there, still looking at her, and her eyes widened in that exasperated ‘ARE YOU FOR REAL?’ kind of way. She made a quick flicking motion with her head, nudging me in the direction of traffic, urging me to take off and scram and stop looking after her already.
I put my foot on the gas and eased away from the curb. I did what she wanted and needed. I did what was right for her. But I didn’t stop looking back.