When you have a baby your thoughts are surrounded by this little bundle of joy. Wait. Scratch that. Bundle of joy? Bundle of crying, pooping, difficult to latch on toothless beast. That’s more like it.
Emma is 14 today. I remember when she was born and the soft skin on her back felt like I put my hand in a vat of warm butter. I had no idea what to expect. I could barely wrap my mind around the number of cells that divided and divided over the 39 weeks bringing me this fleshy, peach fuzzed, pink child.
The sense of overwhelming duty to feed this human was daunting. Everything hurt. My boobs were sore beyond imagine. I couldn’t get her to latch on. Her cries of hunger brought me to tears. Like Pavlov’s dog, her squawks sent chills straight to my nipples. I wanted to run away. But I also wanted to love her and never let her go.
Then a thought occurred to me, somewhere in that first week of having a newborn. What if I don’t like her when she becomes a teenager? What if we clashed and hated each other and didn’t speak? Maybe she would rebel against me. Maybe she would slam the door in my face every time I attempted to connect with her.
When babies grow to be 3 year olds, everyone says, “Wait until they become teens. Then you’ll really have your work cut out for you.”
Guess what? Everything I feared, hasn’t come to fruition. Yet.
I find myself loving and growing with Emma more and more as she enters womanhood. We bond over gross things like tampons and body hair! She tells me about her friends. Her fears and her loves. We still ooh and ahh over Disney princesses.
We have frank discussions about sex. She asks me questions, and I answer. Always trying to wrap it in a context her young mind and heart can relate to. But trying not to sugar coat things to unrealistic proportions. I want her to be a strong, sexually independent adult female. I want her to gain her own claim on her boundaries, intimacies, and relationships.
Radical? I don’t think so. I think one of the greatest hardships we face as parents is letting our children actually leave the nest. I don’t want her to leave. But I want her to. You know what I mean?
She has the spirit and poise and intelligence to do wonderful things. Could she be a UNICEF ambassador to developing countries? Sure. Could she travel the country in a Broadway production? You bet. Do both of those scare the shit out of me? ABSOLUTELY.
But I can’t let her know those fears. I think what scares me most, is if she DIDN’T try those things. If she limited herself and succumbed to her own fears and shut herself in to just stay close to home, and follow the simple path.
Don’t get me wrong. Her happiness is based on her choices. If she goes to junior college and finds a nice job, gets an apartment nearby, and is happy- then perfect.
If she decides to live in Belgium? Then perfect also.
Where am I going with this? All of a sudden I’m breathing in a paper bag realizing I have four more years before she is emancipated in the eyes of the state.
Back to the little girl I’m raising. None of the things I feared have come true. Her door is open, our conversations flow. We’ve had words, she’s rolled her eyes at me. She’s stomped up the stairs and looked at me like I had two heads. But in the end, we connect.
And that’s all I can ask for.
Dearest Emma, I truly want your heart and mind to soar to its fullest potential. To find love and content within yourself and the people you surround yourself with. God bless you and keep you.