My daughter walks along the gray pavement toward her school. I trail behind her, silently mouthing the words, “Wait for me.” But her feet move quickly and she’s already in her classroom, unloading books out of her backpack, sliding papers into her desk and chatting with friends.
I cling to the periphery, witnessing her independence. When she waves goodbye, I reach out to hug her. “Not here, Mama,” she whispers. “It’s embarrassing.” I nod, give her a pat on the back and walk out the door.
Unexpected tears stain my cheeks as I start the car. I grab the steering wheel, my clenched fingers a painful reminder: “She’s 10 already,” I mumble under my breath.
Ten swallows me in a way I don’t anticipate.
When my daughter sleeps at night, I tiptoe into her room and witness her peaceful slumber— her body curled up, snuggling with the blanket. Some nights, she begs me to sleep next to her and asks, “Can you stay with me until I fall asleep?” In those moments, I hold on to the little girl who still needs me.
Sometimes I catch her humming a little tune in the shower or playing with her American Girl doll. She insists that the Tooth Fairy and Santa are indeed magic. I want to hold on to those moments, too; but 10 carves its own pathway.
My daughter refuses to let me choose her clothes and states in a matter-of-fact way that she is allowed to have her own opinions. I see the silhouette of adulthood as she stretches to hit a backhand on the tennis court, retreats to her room to sketch a hummingbird or searches for a recipe to make biscuits from scratch.
She already has lived a decade, but her “becoming” will happen in the years ahead. The envelope of adulthood is opening as she tries to make sense of what is and what isn’t true, the balance between joy and sorrow and the realization that some questions will never lead to satisfying answers.
I must step away to let her discover her path, but will stay firmly rooted in my place as she forges forward.
Ten changes the crux of motherhood. Forever.