The Circle of Life

My very first baby went to preschool at the completely amazing, life-changing-for-me public school in our neighborhood. It was a totally normal preschool in that we had to walk our kids into the classroom, sign them in every morning, then sign them out and walk them out every afternoon. This is a horrible, cruel expectation to set for mew mothers, because as sure as hell is hot, come the first day of kindergarten my son wouldn't even let me on the play area where the 'big boys' lined up. We made it all the way to the flag pole out front of the school and then he turned, kissed me, and said "I got it from here, momma."

The distance between those two points was exactly 1,392 miles. (That's 2240.407 km for all you Canadians.)

By first grade, I was allowed to walk him to the end of the street. Our street, not the school's street. 

If miles were measured in heartbeats, he rode his little bike to the moon and back every school morning. 

My second one entered school and was a little bit more forgiving of my need to, you know, parent him. He'd occasionally let me in the general vicinity of the drop-off area, but only if I remembered who was in charge.

Ain't nobody got time for dat, Jesus.

By the time we moved to Canada, they were getting themselves on and off of the city bus every day all by themselves. (*I* can hardly manage the city bus without a Xanax.) These boys forced me to let them go, let them be, let them become. I was helpless against their cute noses and dashing hairdos and squeaky voices asking please mom, please let us push these boundaries and find out what's waiting for us in the world beyond your arms.

I hated every minute of it, and loved every minutes of it. They made me so anxious, so worried, and so. freaking. proud. 

Turns out, boys and girls are different. Huh. 

My daughter is seven and-almost-a-whole-half-mawm, and every morning I walk hand in hand with her to her bus stop. Together we talk to her friends, sometimes she'll leave to play with them...but she leaves me with her toy or backpack so I don't have to miss her too badly. She kisses me goodbye and waves back to me with every third step towards her bus.

I'm not too proud to admit that I love it.  Sometimes we purposely run late so that I can drive her to school, giving us a whole lot of extra seconds together in the mornings.

So today when I told her she was going to have to walk her little self all the way to the bus stop by her own self because I had a conference call that I simply could not miss, she panicked. She panicked almost as much as I did.

She told ne she couldn't do it, because she would end up getting burglarized. I told her she could do it, that all her friends would be walking at the same time, and that as soon as she turned the corner where she wouldn't be able to see me anymore, she'd see them. She told me she didn't care, that she wasn't ready, that she simply could. not. do. this. 

And I was fairly uncertain whether I could, either. I mean, it's like a 63-second walk

Part of me feels totally justified in my overprotection. Jessica Rdigeway was just walking to school like everyone else, too (doesn't help that I used to live in that very neighborhood, no it doesn't.)

But it had to be done, we had to do it, and dammit, we did it. She said she understood why she had to do this, and I said I understood why she didn't want to. I bundled her up, stole all the kisses I'd miss at the bus stop (while on a conference call, i'll have you know, who says mother's can't do it all?) and sent her on her way. I stood on the sidewalk in bare feet and watched her every step until I couldn't see her anymore. She watched me the whole time, too. 

It'll all I have to not call the school and just make sure she's there, but she's there, everything is fine. I hate every minute of this again, and love every minute of it again. She makes me so anxious, so worried, and so. freaking. proud. 

Nature vs Nurture

- This post was featured on HuffPo's {Parenthesis} and I couldn't be more blushy about the whole situation -

My daughter has this little friend at school, who's name doesn't matter, and he wants to hug her and squeeze her and keep her forever and call her George. I sympathize with him, I really do. I feel the exact same way about her most days. She's scrumdidilyicious. 

However, I still let her have friends. I don't bully the other little boy who also very much so loves her and wants to be in her company all. the. time. I don't intimidate her with threats if she defies my wishes or talks to other kids, and I don't lie to the teacher if she steps out of line, saying she said a bad word or hit someone so she'll be punished for making me angry. 

She's not afraid of me, is my point, but she sure as hell is afraid of Friend Who's Name Doesn't Matter. 

And it's really just depressing. I mean, she didn't even get to get drunk and meet this clown at some bar and project all her daddy issues onto him like it's her goddamn American right to. Oh no, he picked her out of the crowd like she was waiting prey.

Except she's not waiting prey. 

My mother used to warn me that the bad people could smell me coming. She said that they knew how to find the people like me, people who were weak, broken, vulnerable - that they could find us, and they would, and when they did they'd crush us. She told me to watch out for anyone who took an interest in me, because I was walking around with a target on my back. I wonder why I have trust issues. 

My daughter does not have trust issues. My daughter is the opposite of me in almost every way, because I did the opposite of what my mother did in almost every way. I whisper into my daughter's sleeping ear how amazing she is, how strong she is, how powerful she is. I read her Audre Lorde poems that sing of her strength as a woman and a child of the earth. I sing her my own odes of admiration and love. I tell her every chance I get that she is fiercer than the sun, and stronger than the ocean tides. And still, some little man-person with girl issues and cowboy boots who would certainly refer to her as woman if he only knew how to spell it comes along and tries with all his might to possess her. 

I must admit, it's slightly amusing watching him break himself against the rock that is her. 

But no matter how strong she is, and how secure she is, it is a total mindbleep (because I can't bring myself to say that word in a kid post. I'm losing my edge. I know it.) when someone you are totally emotionally invested in turns the tables over and exploits that investment for their own selfish gain. It's horrifying, watching my seven year old daughter have to navigate this pocket of humanity, watching the little heart I've so carefully guarded from any pain learn the hard lesson that people just ain't no good.

I am cautiously mindful of her reactions to this boy as the situation has progressed. I have tried to guide her decisions without injecting myself into the situation. Letting them have their own experiences, not projection of mine, is the hardest element of parenting I've encountered yet. I worry that she inherited my target along with my crooked toes and blond hair.  I worry that victimization is a recessive gene that you don't realize has passed on until conditions become optimal for it to manifest. I worry that it's instead something acquired through nurture, and that watching me waste the first seven years of her life trying desperately to please and/or appease a controlling, narcissistic alcoholic has told her that is what is normal and good and expected. 

So I watch her closely, I listen for the words I know all too well coming from her mouth that would tell me this boy is winning the battle against her sense of self. I never hear them. I hear honest words like, "I am afraid to tell on him" and "I care about him and don't understand why he cares about me all wrong" and I know that she doesn't have this thing that I have, this curse that keeps the amazing, brillant, powerful women in my family subdued by some man, some religious ideal, some terror of the unknown or the different or that which is difficult and brave. 

Today I was going to go into her classroom to speak to the teacher about Friend Who's Name Doesn't Matter on her behalf. Today, I had found my limit, had enough, decided that she wasn't able to carry this burden any longer. Today I also had a gazillion deadlines, so I didn't go in. Turns out, she did get one thing from me - her line in the sand. Today was her breaking point too. Today he pushed too far, and she pushed back. 

And he backed down. 

He treated her with some goddamn respect. 

He was even kind(ish) to her other little super sensitive man-child-friend. 

And I am so proud of this woman-becoming, who is teaching me more than I will ever in a million years teach her.

61,416

I laid beside you in your bed tonight, staring up at the yellow and blue and green stars that flickered and danced through your ceiling fan and across the expanse of your little 10X15 vaulted sky. You rested your head against the space where my neck and my body meet, and in those few moments there was no way humanly possible for me to hold you tightly enough. 

I know that you are seven now, and i remember what seven means. Your biggest brother was seven when I started this old blog, back before I had any idea there would ever be a you. Your biggest brother, well, he seemed enormous at seven, most certainly seasoned enough to stand with my midwife between my knees and help you come into this world. I looked at him and saw a dude, a manling, a thing becoming, and I look at you seven years later and I see the itsy bitsy tiny helpless little gelfling they carted away to the NICU because if there is one thing in this life you will do right, it is make the grandest of entrances. 

The day? night? incomprehendable expanse of time from when you left my body until you entered my arms? after you were born, I held you much like I did tonight - in your bed, buried under blankets, staring into the dark. We laid beside each other for hours - 10, if the nurses tell me correctly, and we didn't have much to say to one another. You nursed until you couldn't muster enough strength to continue, and I stared at you though the thickest haze of exhaustion that only comes from doing something truly other-worldly, like falling though the air or surfing inside of salt water tubes or creating the most exquiste human being to ever grace the earth, and I kept staring into your then-blue eyes without blinking once, until I had little choice but to declare you the wildest thing of all. 

That night you were 24 hours old, and tonight you somewhere around 61,416 hours old. The best thing about you is that tonight, my mind was just as blown as it was that first night we hung out all night watching Law & Order reruns and eating really atrocious Jello cups. You have changed everything I ever thought I knew about anything. You've changed the way I see my life, the way I see the lives of others. You've changed me at the core of the person I thought I was, and I will never be able to thank you enough for that. 

But I know what seven means. I know that you need me to start easing up on my grip. I know you need me to hold you just as tightly, just maybe sometimes not, like, in front of your friends or stuff? I know that you're about to start pushing off of me and rowing into the seas of your own life, and so you're going to have to forgive me for a little while while I lay in your bed more often than you think I need to and stare at the ceiling with you. It's really not that you're the only person in this house with a not-Ikea mattress (thought that is true and totally a bonus), it's that I can still smell you brand new in my arms. I can still feel you warm on my neck. I haven't quite figured out how to see you as gigantic, a womanlingthing, a lady becoming, and I am almost, but not quite, possibly ready to start talking about that. 

Under fake stars.

Under a ridiculous amount of blankets. 

In our own little world. 

For as long as you will let this magic keep happening.

Happy 7th birthday, my angel. There is nothing I love more than being your mom. 

Fluflubees

"A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y!" she sang to me, pointing to the little sticky foam letters which will peel most, if not all, of the stain off the table when we finally get around to removing them. "Did you know Y can be a bowel, mom?"

Um, yes I do, actually?

"Oh, I mean vvvvvowel. It starts withhh a VEEE. Vowel."

Oh just knock it off with the growing, kid. 

One day they realize that if you're happy, and you know it, you aren't actually supposed to clap your feet, or that it isn't Chris-chris time, and the next day they're at school getting girlfriends or worrying that their period is going to start soon and you just sit there looking at them like, "How is it possible that you are able to eat food on your own again?" 

And then you take your daughter out to play after she's given you a grammar lesson and you both see it at the same time. A monarch fluflubee, flying just above and in front of her, and you stop to watch because there will never be anything more fantastic than a fluflubee. At that moment the wind picks up and the fluflubee is tossed around through the air, hurdled to earth and broken against the black concrete. 

Your daughter runs over, bends down, and picks up the creature. She's afraid at first, and so is it, but she is gentle and it is in need and you don't even notice when she she perfectly enunciates the desperation behind momma, the butterfly's wing is broken and the prayer inside of can we fix it, momma? because no matter what she says or how she says it, she is always going to be your baby and you are always going to be spellbound by her wide eyes and huge heart.

Six now, forever and ever.

Three nights ago you wept in your bed, crying over the unfairness of all of this happening to you. "I can't grow up, mom. Five is my favorite number."

Five was my favorite number, too. I used to tell you that five was the perfect age to be, because it was just enough to grab your face with and smush it. Five was also the perfect number to hold your little baby foot with.

Still crazy after all these years

Your foot isn't so baby little anymore. Nothing about you is. You learned how to say 'th' this year and I can't believe that I am the kind of person who could spend all day listening to a child say tha-ree! but it truly is the most beautiful sound in the word, you soaking in the world and wringing out little bits for the rest of us to taste. One of the many things you've taught me about myself that I never would have guessed on my own is that there is nothing I would rather do with my days than listen to you sound out the world around you.

I imagine you on the school playground with your friends learning how to jump rope and braid hair. You come home and you tell me all the things the other little girls have taught you and I wonder what you're teaching them in return. You know so much more than I ever could have imagined you would, so much more than I ever did at your age. 

At the same time, you know nothing that I knew when I was six, and I don't think I'll ever be given a greater gift than that. I have to lie to you so often about my childhood, because the stories you do hear are so far from fathomable, they frighten you.  You with your magical little ways have taught me somthing I guessed all along, that any story can become truth if it is simply told enough times. You are making the stories I wish I could tell you come alive every time you make me re-write the oral history of my life and whisper it sweetly into your sleepy ears.  

You ask my why I love you so much and I reply why, of course it's your giggle, except when it is your hugs, but of course when it isn't your smile, and only when it isn't the way your beautiful little mind works. I tell you that I love you today, and I will love you every day of your life, because I have to, the same way I have to breath in and out. You ask if I will ever stop loving you and I tell you that loving you is the air around me and inside of me, in my veins and my lungs and the very fiber of my being and that my love for you is what has made me a complete person. 

Six years ago, right off of 9th and Colorado in Denver, you with your collapsed lung and prolapsed cord, born purple and raging if for no other reason than to scare the living shit out of your brother on the very first moment of your aquaintance, you breathed life into a woman you hardly knew but who had been waiting her entire life to meet you. I held you all night that night, watching you sleep for the first time.

Sleepy

Every night since then has felt exactly the same way. I can never escape the wonder of you, and I don't ever want to. Every day with you has been as amazing as the first day you came into my life, because you continue to be the most incredible creature this world has ever known.

My favorite number will always ever be whichever you are, little girl, forever and ever, amen.