“There’s my baby,” I said.
“Hey, Mama,” was her reply and she handed me a lilac, her chubby little fingers with the crease in her wrist; both remind me she’s a baby.
My almost two-year-old daughter has used these turn of words twice today and even though it’s cute, the phrase seems too old for her to be saying. I was transported, sliding on her words into the future I know awaits me–a future where my baby girl is no longer a baby at all.
She’s only 22 months old, but soon, I know she’ll be 22 and graduating from college. I can’t help but wonder if she’ll sneak up behind me and put her arms around me right before it’s time for her to go on stage to get her diploma . I imagine her saying “Hey” but the “mama” will be long gone and replaced with “mom.” “Hey, Mom,” she will say and my heart will swell like it does now. “There’s my baby,” I will think.
Her hair is a strawberry blonde that seems to be darkening. It’s curly and rather unruly and there is only enough of it for a short ponytail. But someday, she’ll be getting ready for her senior prom, and those curls will glisten as her signature. She might not like them, even though I hope she does. I imagine her in navy because her eyes are the bluest blue, but knowing my girl, she’ll wear something totally original and she won’t care about matching her eyes to her dress. And I will watch her with pride as she gets her photo taken. “There’s our baby,” I will whisper to my husband.
Her brother is five years older and I watch how she desperately tries to keep up. She follows him everywhere, saying “bro bro.” He’s the first one she asks for in the morning and the last one she kisses at night. Tonight, he went to spend the night with my parents, and she said to him, “stay here,” as she blocked the door. And I can’t help but feel her heartache when he leaves our nest five years before her to set sail into the world. But I will be there to greet her in the morning and kiss her before she goes to bed. And while one baby boy will be gone on his own adventure, I will kiss her forehead and say to her “There’s my baby,” as a way to reassure her that it will all be okay. It might annoy her but I will say it anyway.
She threw a fit today, throwing herself down in a rage. It was raining in sheets and she wanted to be outside. I tried to tell her that we would go when the rain slowed, but she wouldn’t listen. And, I can see her slamming her door in high school, upset for another decision I’ve made in her best interest. While the fits and frustrations of toddlerhood will be over eventually, raising a teenager won’t be easy, no matter how it all goes. And, even though her will can be trying, most times I admire her resolution. Even in those times, as I know I will fight back my own feelings of frustration, I also know I will still admire her independence and think to myself, “There’s my baby.”
More and more instances come to mind as I think of raising this spirited redhead, the daughter I prayed and begged for. The one I made wagers for and lost myself for. The one who caused me to dig deep and find myself again–all in her name and in the name of her maker.
“There’s my baby,” I said again after I thanked her for the gift of my favorite flower.
“There mama,” she replied and hugged me.
Yes. There is mama. Always. Here I am. Fits and frustrations, curls and proms, graduations and departures, and everything in between. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But more beauty than anything. Here I am. There’s mama. That will never change, no matter what she calls me or how she addresses me or how old she gets. There is mama. Here I am.
Thanks for Mothering the Divide with me, as always. Here I am. And I’m glad you’re here, too.