Saturday, November 14, 2009

getting so big

Sadie, our six year old, lost her front tooth today. She was so excited and proud. I celebrated the joyous occasion with her and gave her a big hug. She happily ran off to show Daddy and I went in the bathroom and cried quietly for just a moment without anyone knowing.
It sounds silly and I know it. Why did I cry over something like my six year old losing a tooth? I cried, quite simply, because she's changing. She's constantly changing, but something like the loss of a tooth, especially a front tooth represents that she is no longer my baby. She's no longer any one's baby, she's a big girl now and she's starting to look like one.

It reminds me of her first day of kindergarten, which was a little over a year ago. We were prepared for her first day of school, after all, she new her letter sounds and could count to fifty. Everything was going to be just fine. And, it was. We took her to school, she was wearing a dress that we picked out for the occasion (yes, it was a Lilly), she had her new tote bag with her name on it and her lunch was packed with her favorites.

That morning, I stood there on the unfamiliar playground and watched her as she played with little children that I'd never met. She was heart was pounding. The bell rang and the teacher came to gather the children. It was time for her to stay, more importantly, it was time for me to go. There were no tears, she didn't cry and I refused to. A quick hug goodbye and she ran off.

I left the playground and walked to my car, which was maybe 30 yards away at best. But it might as well have been miles because at that moment my heart embarked on an endless journey. I knew that I had just walked away from a little girl who wouldn't be there that afternoon when I came back. She was going to be different. She would have new friends and new teachers, when in the past, I played the role of both. This was how it was supposed to be. Everything was going as planned.

As I drove home, it became so clear to me, that the challenge in learning how to be a good mother doesn't lie in learning how to take care of a child (most of us are born with that ability), the true difficulty in learning how to be a good mother, is developing the skill needed to recognize when the time has come to allow her experience the world without me. I will always be there for her, but if I'm doing it right, she will need me less and less. Every milestone that we celebrate is bitter-sweet because each step she makes is really a step away. Sometimes I just want to grab her and keep her, that's all, just keep her.

I came back that afternoon and picked her up. On the way home she told me all about school, only stopping occasionally to take a breath. She told me about her new friends. She told me about her new teachers. She said that her favorite was Miss T and that she'd been to Africa. Miss T. was going to teach the children all about Africa. She was thrilled. I was thrilled for her. I told her how wonderful it all sounded and that I was so happy that she liked her new school, and I sincerely was. I still am.

Tonight she'll put the tooth under her pillow and the tooth fairy will come. She'll leave something for Sadie and then she'll put the tooth in my jewelry box (we have an agreement). I'm guessing Sadie will get $5 for her tooth, after all, it is a front tooth. She'll spend it on a toy or perhaps a new gold fish and the money will be gone. I, on the other hand, will save her tooth forever, even though I know she no longer needs it.


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