I suppose the start of her walking away passed by in a moment of celebration: her first steps. She stood up, her back to me, and waddled a few feet away. The underlying reality of that moment passed by almost imperceptibly. She would spend the rest of her childhood walking away. Learning, falling, getting up again, and looking back to make sure I was still there.
The newness of the world was equal parts exhilarating and frightening. But with every step, every lesson learned, she took ownership of her own mind and body. Now, we are careening toward a moment that will likely pass by without truly noticing:. the moment she fully realizes that she has her own mind. She’s not me, and doesn’t have to be. And the next moment will be when she truly realizes she doesn’t want to be me.
Her thoughts, dreams, realizations, actions – belong to her. She won’t be looking back to me to make sure I’m still there. At least, not in a way that I can see.
This tiny moment is one that so many parents fear. They fear it so much that they refuse to let it happen, or believe it has happened. They fear what it means for their own identity that they bundled so tightly around their infant. It happens regardless of whether you want it to or not. These are the years that can irreparably harm a parent-child bond, as a child struggles mightily to understand who they are without you, and you don’t let them.
I pour my love all over her, trying to impart what I think is wisdom, but at the same time reminding myself daily to allow her to create a space between us. I try desperately not to fear it. If I can allow that space to exist, eventually our friendship will bloom in that exact spot.