I wasn’t really myself when I decided we would let my daughter get her ears pierced for her seventh birthday. I mean, I was eight when I got mine pierced, and that’s a whole year away! And what about the likelihood of infection, and the responsibility of cleaning them, and the pain involved? Knowing my highly sensitive, sometimes irresponsible daughter, this seemed like a bad idea.
But somehow I decided to say yes. The fact is, she’s been changing a lot these past few months. Drifting away from me, in some ways. Thankfully, she still likes to snuggle, but she frequently blows me off to spend time with her friends. The two of us had an entire day alone together yesterday while her younger sister went to childcare, and she opted out of the movie we had planned so as not to disrupt the seven uninterrupted hours of play with her neighborhood friends. Don’t get me wrong- I was grateful for the alone time. I spent nearly four hours working and writing, and then I cleaned the whole house, did laundry, and made dinner before 4:00.
The independence is good for both of us, I suppose. A few months ago, I arrived at a schoolmate’s birthday party to pick her up, and she pretended she didn’t see/know me. A far cry from my toddler, who runs straight into my arms and greets me with unabashed delight and affection when I arrive to pick her up. Friends are slowly becoming more important than family.
But I’ve also noticed that the two of us are able to connect more deeply on an emotional and intellectual level. I am able to explain things to her- even to reason with her when I see a need for a behavioral change. She does her fair share of eye-rolling, but sometimes she sits very still, makes eye contact with me, and listens to me. And asks questions. I have a newly-opened copy of How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk sitting on my nightstand. (Thanks, Dose Girls!) I bought it after reaching my threshold for tolerating wise-talking, disrespectful six year old sass. While we clearly still need the guidance of this book, (which I am loving, by the way) I am seeing the possibilities emerge for an evolution in our relationship.
Her birthday party this year will also be very different; since she was in preschool, we have always invited the same group of girls. Many of them were in childcare together as toddlers, and some of them were invited mostly because I was friends with their moms. But when you are turning seven, you get to choose your own friends. Most of the kids who are coming attend her school; only a few are friends we have known for a long time. This year, there are even several boys attending.
She is growing up. She listens to popular music on the radio and knows more of the lyrics than I do. She makes jokes that are sometimes even funny. She speaks with the lexicon of her smart-mouthed, wordsmith Mommy. And I can’t believe how much she has changed.
I have to change with her. I am terrified of arriving at some point in the future and discovering that she hates me, that our values are shockingly disparate, or that I am obsolete in her pyramid of influences. I don’t want to push too much, but I refuse to let go too soon. Or maybe ever. I know the old cliche about parents holding their children’s hands for a little while and their hearts forever; I realize that it is possible to maintain closeness with your child while still allowing room for their independence. I just don’t know what it looks like yet.
She started second grade this week, and her birthday is in two days. I know she was apprehensive about beginning a new school year with an unfamiliar classroom and different friends. But she faced the challenges with bravery and an openness to change.
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