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."


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