Yesterday, the girl who first made me a mama turned eight years old. Eight. There’s something different about this age, isn’t there? A feeling like something is ending. An edging towards something. Or is it away from something? It’s like she’s holding hands with me, but just my pinky, not ready to let go, but still wanting to move forward into the world of her peers independently. There’s not much I can do about that forward momentum, towards something else and away from me. There are theories that our lives are lived in cycles, with major emotional and mental changes happening every seven years. I can see this in Meghan, where in the last year she transitioned to a different stage in her life, one in which she started noticing herself in the world outside of her family more.
Sometime in the last year, she started looking less like a little girl and more just like a girl. She doesn’t want my help as much anymore, especially with things like choosing what to wear. Her style is 100% Meghan and I love that about her.
It makes my heart ache, a little, to see my first born growing up and needing me less. She’s taking a different dance class this year, a ballet class that is part of her dance school’s “pre-professional program.” It’s a mixed age class and she’s the youngest one. I sat with her in the changing room a few days ago, waiting for the class to start. She was the only one with a mom waiting with her and the only one who needed a mom to put her hair in a bun. She is acutely aware of these kind of details and the whole class in general stresses her out. She doesn’t know any of the girls well and feels embarrassed and uncomfortable about it. I noticed her looking sad as we waited for the class to start, so I instinctively put my arm around her shoulder in a gesture of comfort. She immediately wiggled away, her eyes darting around the room to see if anyone noticed what I’d done. At that moment, I mourned for the little girl who would crawl up in my lap and let me rock her when she was sad, regardless of who was watching. I felt the protection I’m able to offer her slipping as she navigates these situations without the comfort of my arms.
As much as moving onto to new stages can be sad, watching the passing stage slip away and having to rely on memory to ever experience it, there’s also joy in watching her grow. Life offers so much as she matures and we get to experience it together. One of the great treasures of parenting is being able to see life through your child’s eyes. She’s examining life through a different lens these days, and it’s fun to watch her form new perspectives. Even if Meghan doesn’t want the comfort of my arms in public, when we’re home, without the scrutiny of others, I still get hugs and my loving gestures returned. She knows Tim and I are her safe place. I want to teach her to not care what all kids with watchful eyes are thinking, but I’m not sure that’s totally realistic. Instead, I will teach her that her worth is not attached to what anyone else thinks. It’s okay to care, because let’s be honest, we all cared during our formative years. Most of us still do to some extent.
Here she is, my eight year old. Another birthday has come and gone, and Meghan continues to learn, and grow, and make me proud. You don’t think you can ever love a child more than you do on any given day, and then it happens. I just keep loving her more every day. I will savor our private hugs and remember to live in the present with her, enjoying this stage of her life, even when her actions confound me. This is her first time being eight and this is my first time being the mom of an eight year old. We’re in this together.
Would you like to read my reflections on Meghan’s past birthdays? Whew! I’ve been blogging a long time. 🙂 See the posts below that date way back to her 2nd birthday!