Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Can She Be 12?

At Hannah's birthday celebration last night, I thought to myself, "How can she be 12?"

I look at my daughter and really see her. As I gaze at her and try to see her as the world sees her, I nearly gasp aloud at the young woman that she is becoming. Beyond the new physical curves of her maturing body, I see the strong, courageous and assertive spirit that will take her into a successful future. But, in my mind's eye, she is still that little peanut who lay on my chest so long ago. As I rocked her and she drifted into sleep, I would repeat the whispered mantra, "Stay little...stay little...stay little." Now that she's surpassed me in height, I must confess that I don't think that my pleas worked.

Last night, as I watched her goof around with her two dining companions, I couldn't help but wonder how we got to this place - this place that is 12 years old - so very fast. Inside, I choke on the knowledge that two-thirds of her layover with us has passed. As activities and friends consume more and more of her waking hours, I know that these last six years will zoom by in a blink of an eye. And, before I know it, we'll be celebrating her 18th birthday, and shortly after that, she'll be off to college. The thought of this future "missing her" brings me to my knees, and a sense of foreboding makes my heart constrict with the impending loss...and I almost forget to be in this moment, here. Right now.

I know in my head that looming separation and her pursuit of autonomy is a natural part of growing up - and away - from me. It doesn't mean that I have to like it.

For now, I still revel in the glimpses of a younger Hannah, such as her request for a Play-Doh set this birthday, and I am secretly delighted and grateful when she still needs me. Within the walls of our home, I am still called "Mommy," but I've noticed recently that I've "graduated" to either "Mom" or "Mother" when she's among her friends. When we're alone, my daughter is still the outwardly demonstrative child I've always known; quick with a hug or a casual "I love you" thrown back over her shoulder as she leaves for school. But out in the world, I sense the slightest bitter taste of her pulling away from me.

Friends have begun to warn me that this is "just the beginning." I am told frightening things like,"Oh, just you wait for the teen years!" To date, my response has been, "Every age so far has been my favorite." Just because she'll enter teen-dom next year, I don't have reason (yet) to believe that Hannah is suddenly going to morph into the anti-Christ. Through the years, she has only become more interesting, kinder, smarter, and funnier.

I can only foresee this trend continuing.

Happy Birthday, my 12-year old.
I (continue to) beseech you - "stay little."


Monday, May 9, 2011

Listen To Your Mother - The episode in which I am tired, but proud

The episode in which I am tired, but proud.

I have work to do this morning, but I’m ignoring it. Rather, I have chosen to bask in the after glow of yesterday’s Listen to Your Mother show. I find that I don’t want to leave that place just yet, but rather I am content to revel in the memories made before, during and after the show.

As a bit of background, I stumbled upon the LTYM website surfing the web, and I watched the video of the 2010 LTYM show. I was captivated by the woman that everyone calls, “Ding Dong;” a mom of chronic door-ringing children.

“Ding Dong” completely cracked me up, and I thought, “I bet I could do that.” I then discovered that auditions for the 2011 show were but a month away. I got down to business. I reread all of the pieces I’d ever written about motherhood. Should I submit a funny one or a serious one? I decided that I was more comfortable with the funny route, so I collected a bunch of snippets of conversations between my daughter and me about puberty. I smushed them around, sliced and diced, and made them into an essay that I felt rolled right along.

Despite a public speaking phobia, I auditioned and I was chosen to be one of the 13 Madison Mamas to read at the 2011 Listen to Your Mother show! I am so grateful to have shared this amazing experience with 13 beautiful, wonderful, generous, giving and loving women: Elizabeth Katt Reinders; Darcy Dederich; Suzy Grindrod; Jessie Loeb; Amy Miles; Stacie Rieder; Alexandra Rosas Schultze; Jennifer Rosen Heinz; Sara Santiago; Laura McNeill; Erika Wagner-Martin; Sara Ward-Cassidy and Ann Imig.

They have made me a better Mom and a better person. Because of this briefly shared time in our lives, they are my friends for life.

I was blessed to have my daughter, partner, her mom and my best friend sitting in the front row on show day. I could feel their smiles and their good wishes being sent my way, even though it was impossible to see them after the lights went down. But I knew they were there, and that’s all that mattered.

As I listened to the three amazing women speak before me, I concentrated on breathing and calmness. I could hear my heart racing and pounding within my chest, and kept chanting to myself, “It will be fine. It will be great. It will be……….over……..soon.” I mildly cursed my daughter for “making me” do this thing. I berated the directors for picking my piece. Yeah, it was a busy place in my head.

As I walked to the podium, I repeated the word “pre-pubescence, pre-pubescence” over and over again. It was the word that would make me stumble, and dang it, I did later misspeak it. But you know what? I nailed every other damn word in that essay, and I was so proud of myself. When the first laugh from the audience came, I was so grateful. I actually wanted to pause and say, “thank you.”

They laughed…and I laughed…and I thought, “I am actually doing this, and I am going to survive it.” Hey, I’m sitting down now, and they’re clapping. Holy crap! It’s over. Yea for MEEEEEEE!  

Hannah told me later that she was laughing so hard that she cried during my entire reading.  I was confused. “But honey, you’ve read it and heard it 100+ times?” She said, “But Mommy, you are so funny when you read it out loud!”

The best part of the day to me was listening to and observing the audience members as they filtered out of the Barrymore Theatre. The lobby was ALIVE with the energy of smiling women, crying women, women hugging women. The women, young and old, of all shapes and sizes, they shared their stories with friends, and family, and yes, with strangers. Many took our hands and said, “Thank you.” They thanked us for being brave and for telling our stories.

For a few minutes, I felt like a Rock Star.

And in an ironic twist of karma coming around to slap my face, I hear from across the room, “Hey, there’s the “Puberty Woman.” Oh dear, “Ding Dong” sounded so much cuter.

I had a cape on my back…one that unfortunately said, “Puberty Woman,” but it’s a cape nonetheless. And, damn it, that’s all that matters.

P.S. Deb Nies’ make-up yesterday – Elizabeth Katt Reinders. (Thank you for making my eyes “pop,” in a good way!)