Sunday, June 15, 2008

"I think my heart chose this for me..."

My daughter is 12 today. My Lovebug, Stinkbug, Bugabooga. I always feel a little melancholy on her birthday, looking back at how she's changed over the years, how she's grown. The time gets longer, the changes more dramatic.

I have never been more in love with anyone than I was with that child the minute she was born. It wasn't an easy birth either. She wasn't ready to be born and fought it for 52 hours. It was exhausting and at one point I was ready to agree with her and postpone it, if only to get a few hours of sleep. Sleep now, have baby another day. And then there she was - this miraculous, wondrous, tiny little creature. I would have cried had there been any amount of moisture left in my body with which to create a tear or two. She cried for both of us, although she really meant it as a complaint at being pushed out into the brightness of the outside world.

I couldn't get enough of her. When we were home, I placed her gently in her crib, with the chosen Winnie the Pooh blankets to soften her slumber. That lasted all of two minutes. I couldn't stand to have her in another room, away from me. It might as well have been another planet, that distance from her bedroom to the living room. So out she came, back into my arms, only so I could look at her for hours at a time. I was completely and utterly smitten.

It's not like I have grown less in love with her as she's grown. It's more like my love has had to accommodate itself to fit the person she is becoming. She's a lot like me, which has its good and bad points. I find that the things that I don't like in myself I abhor in her. Our likenesses cause us to clash, much in the way that like ends of a magnet will repel each other. Sometimes the pod is too close for the comfort of the two peas trying to exist in it.

I thought she would never learn to walk, which was actually okay with me at the time. When she did start standing and walking, she would never just fall on her bottom when she started to topple. No, my stubborn little child would fight to hold on until the very end, keeping her back straight so that she always landed flat and on the back of her head. I didn't want to be one of those moms that always ran to their crying child. She's a girl and I'm very conscious of the feeling that she needs to be tougher than a little teardrop to make it in the world. So she cried the first few times, figured out that wouldn't get her anywhere, and then got up and started over again.

Some of these lessons have backfired as she now fights to the end for everything with me. She has gotten to be quite adept at negotiating. This must work better on her father, sometimes dads can be easy that way. I can't blame her for trying though. I'd be so proud of her if only she would use this skill for good and not her own evil desires.

And now I feel like we have entered the Milestone years. Elementary school has come and gone. Middle school and every frightening thing that entails has started. She got braces last fall. I have glimpses of the beginnings of hormones with eye rolls and heavy sighs. Her good grades didn't come as easy this year as social activities took prevalence over being a "good girl." It seemed easier when I only had to worry about her falling on her head. The fall now is so much farther and potentially so much more painful, for both of us.

I sometimes forget how much fun she is, which breaks my heart every time I think that. Yesterday was a good day. We went to Portland to get her feet fitted for her first pair of pointe shoes. As she stood at the bar on the tips of her toes in her little dancer pose, the muscles in her legs trembling, I was surprised to find a tear had escaped and was slipping down my cheek. I forget sometimes too, how much pride I take in her achievements. She was absolutely glowing all day, gazing lovingly at her silky pink shoes.

Afterwards, we went to lunch to celebrate. She decided to try the snow crab legs, which isn't a surprise as her tastes lean towards the more expensive end of the menu. Corn dogs? Grilled cheese? No thank you. But steak, salmon, sushi or calamari she will eat any day of the week. She learns how to crack open the shells to find the sweet, tender crab meat inside. Some people find this process too laborious and not worth it. Not my daughter. As she's cracking the last leg she says, "I think my heart chose this for me because it knew I would like it." Why yes, my little epicurean apprentice, some foods do feed our hearts and souls as well as our stomachs. My heart and my stomach both were full on the drive home.

So on this, your 12th birthday, my darling, loving, exasperating, frustrating, silly child, I don't think I could have said it better than that. I think that my heart chose you for me because it knew I would love you.

Happy Birthday.
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