Jenna and I have a little morning “ritual” that we go through every day. When she wakes up she calls for me. Usually, she shouts, “Mommy! I’m AWAKE!” repeatedly and with escalating volume, until I arrive. I go in, turn on the light, and scoop her up out of her crib. I say, “Good Morning, Pumpkin!” and she lays her head down on my shoulder and snuggles in while she pats my back softly. We stand like that quietly for a minute or so, and then I whisper, “I love you, Pumpkin.” She pushes back and looks at me with a sweet smile, gives me a big kiss and says, “I love you too, Mommy.” And so our day begins.
Not so much today.
This morning, when she woke up, she started repeating (with escalating volume), “Mommy! I’m your FRIEND!” Usually, this is her cue that she’s feeling snuggly and wants to hug you or put her arm(s) around you. I smiled a little bit and went in her room feeling all warm and fuzzy. I turned on the light and scooped her up. She laid her head on my shoulder and patted my back. I softly whispered, “I love you, Pumpkin.” and she pushed back, looked me in the eye, and made a horrible grouchy face.
Me: Why are you making such a grouchy face?
J: Because I DON’T love you!
Ouch. I nonchalantly placed her on the changing table and casually said, “Well, I DO love you.” and continued onto other conversation. But inside, I felt like a piece of my heart had broken. Not so much because of what she said. I know she didn’t mean it. She’s testing her tiny wings. Gaging my reaction, discovering the power of words, testing her power to think (and speak) independently of what she knows the expected response to be. I know all that. But a tiny piece of my heart broke because I know it marks a small turning point. A turning point from the baby who adored me without question for two years. A turning point toward a thousand more times that she will say, or imply, “I hate you,” “You’re mean,” “You’re embarrassing,” “I don’t want to be with you.”
Then another piece of my heart broke when I realized how many times I put my own mom through this.
I know it’s a part of growing up. I know it’s part of finding her wings and gaining independence. All things that, of course, I want for my child. There’s just no way I ever figured it would be this hard. How can you want them to grow up and be independent at the very same time that you want them to stay tiny and adoring. Believing that you can do magic and running to you with their “owies” and their joys. I know I’ve got lots of years filled with snuggling, adoring, joy-sharing and magic-weaving. I want to treasure every minute. Because, even though I know that I’ll be proud of her and her accomplishments, I also know without a doubt that, with every step she takes toward independence and growing up, she’ll take another small piece of my heart with her.
Carry my heart well, Pumpkin. Carry my heart well.
And, Mom? I hope that I’m doing you proud today as I carry your heart with me. I know that I couldn’t be the mommy I am without all the pieces of your heart that you gave. I love you.
Where did my baby go?
She’s growing up fast