Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Becoming Herself

My baby girl celebrated her eleventh birthday this weekend. Eleven. And, of course, I cried, just as I did when she held her bottle for the first time, took her first steps, started kindergarten, lost her first tooth, and every other milestone and birthday along the way. I had the frightening realization that she is now closer to college than to kindergarten. I also realized that, the older she gets, the more she becomes her own person, her own unique being, and less a copy of me.

We have always had an amazing—almost psychic—connection. We finish each other’s sentences, hum the same songs, and will often crave the same foods, at exactly the same time. We also mirror, and feed off of, one another’s moods. If she’s sad, I get gloomy as well; if I’m happy, her mood perks up. Although she enjoys spending time with friends, she always wants to know that I’m nearby, in case she ever needs me. I never feel complete without her by my side. We are, in many ways, like two halves, lost without the other. But, as she matures and develops her own interests (often outside my realm of understanding), I have to accept that she is not my other half. She is uniquely, magnificently, and beautifully her own whole. As she should be.

Although we are very much alike in many (often eerie) ways, we are also, in many ways, different. She is a science wiz, able to easily master everything from biology to physics. I took one science course in college (because I was forced to) and barely mustered a C+. She has always been fascinated by how things work, from her very first toy that she took apart and reassembled, when she was only six months old. I, however, love to learn about people and ideals, but really don’t care how something works, as long as it does. She loves to watch shows like “How it Was Made” (as does my husband). I would rather watch paint dry. We are both avid readers, but she is much more dedicated than I, and can easily finish a 300-page book in a single evening. We are both animal lovers, but she is a proud PETA member, vegetarian, co-founder of an Animal Rights Club, and volunteer for an area animal shelter. (I guess you could say that she doesn’t do anything small.)

How much, and in what ways, she needs me is also changing. When she was an infant, she needed me for everything—food, clothing, sustenance. As she grew, she needed me to teach her how to read, write, and tie her shoes. In elementary school, I offered help with homework and guidance during arguments with friends. As she gets older, she may need me less, but needs my guidance and love even more. Now, in middle school, I’m here to help her through much more difficult experiences—like soothing heartbreak and resisting peer pressure. And, as she continues to grow, I know that the pressures will become much more intense, and therefore my lessons and guidance even more critical. I hope to help her continue to have the strength to stand up for her convictions, the courage to resist temptations, and the freedom to become uniquely, magnificently her own woman.

We may not be two halves, but she is and forever will be a part of my soul. And ultimately, the most important gift I can offer her is the ability to become herself—the most amazing person I’ve ever known, and a person who will undoubtedly make this world a better place. In fact, she already has.

Yes, she is becoming her own woman. But, she will always be my baby girl.

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