In just a few days time, my daughter will be nine years old. She is shy and hilarious; inquisitive and grumpy. She is a self-professed cynic, and she loves animals, sometimes, I think, more than humans. If you know her then you know she’s a little different. A little quirky, perhaps, and her independent streak is fierce. She is a highly opinionated feminist. I love watching her play- bedecked in sequin garments- as she violently crashes her cars together, wrestles with the boys, and sends her Barbie dolls to boot camp where they train to fight. Yet she is such a gentle soul; so gentle that she has difficulty standing up for herself because she doesn’t like confrontation. I think her gray-green eyes are beautiful, and this is the part of her body that I have memorized best. Nine years in and I never tire of watching her sleep (probably because in her early years it was such an anomaly) and I think maybe I never will.
For me, motherhood runs on this strange clock, like something out of a Roald Dahl novel. At times, I’m certain its hands aren’t moving at all, and other times it feels like everything is happening in just seconds. It makes me feel like a hypocrite because I just can’t wait for her to grow up, but I’m trying to stall the process. I’m so curious as to what the adult version of her will be like that sometimes I forget to really treasure her as she is now. Other times, like when I look through her old baby clothes, or when a beloved toy has started collecting dust, I wish I could go back in time, even if just for a day, to hear her tiny voice, or just have her fit in my arms again. I think of all the pictures I have taken, and continue to take of her, and I realize that what I’m really doing is trying to capture the loss that is happening right before my eyes.
And so here I am, nine years a mother. Nine years of impressing myself with how great I can be, nine years of scaring myself at how awful I can be. Nine years of being at odds with myself in a way that only motherhood makes possible. Nine years of wishing my own mother were here so I could ask her, “How in the hell do you do this?!?!?” I think if my mother were here, she would tell me to laugh hard and love hard…and avoid talking to my kid until I’ve had my morning coffee. I think I can follow those rules. And I think, probably, my girl is going to turn out OK. She will continue to surprise me and make me question myself, and she won’t know it, but I’ll just keep growing alongside her.