About 2 weeks ago, I was in the neverending pick-up window line at Chick-fil-a, by myself, spacing out, as I often do in those quiet moments between work appointments. I noticed a mom and her preteen daughter getting out of their car to head inside the restaurant. They caught my eye because the daughter was clearly upset at a her mother. Her body language was tangible and unmistakable: arms crossed, sour puss, walking briskly steps in front of her mom. Her mom caught up to her, having to get to a slight jog to do so, and attempted to put her arm around her. The daughter shrugged her off so violently with a “STOP IT!!! YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE” declaration, loud enough for everyone within a 3 mile radius to hear.
My first thought was, “what a little bitch!”. My second thought was, “holy shit. That will be my child in 6 years or less”. That thought honestly brought panic into my soul. It isn’t that far away.
As difficult as I found the newborn, infant and toddler years to be, they really flew by. I distinctly remember secretly wanting to sucker punch any old person that said, “Cherish every moment. It flies by so fast”, when I was in the throughs of those earlier years of motherhood…but now I am beginning to understand. I might have even been the one to utter something similar to a friend who recently had a baby. The thing is, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, time seems to quadruple in speed when you have children. I’m pretty sure days go from the normal 24 hours down to 12. It’s some bizarre phenomenon.
Anyway, independence. This awesomely wonderful and sad thing happens when your kid reaches the age of 6-7. They start to gain more independence, not just in the ” I can brush my teeth by myself” sense, but bigger. Things like what happened to me on February 18, 2016 when my daughter looked at me while I was walking her into school and said, “you can just leave me here, mom, at the cafeteria. I can walk the rest of the way to class alone”. What.in.the.hell?! I just wasn’t ready. I don’t know if any parent is ready for that exact moment of declared independence, but there I was in this stew of emotions and confusion and pride. It was a defining moment.
I read so many blog pieces about new motherhood, toddlerhood, and the teenage years, mostly with negative undertones or the “hang in there” messages in solidarity. I’ve even written a couple myself. But you don’t read many about these in-between years, say between 6-10, because the truth is, they’re pretty easy, minus the Common Core math problems. This independence that comes within these years is full of emotions, for us and for them.
These years have their own magic. As difficult as it is to accept the new level of emerging independence, it’s so beautiful and amazing to watch. As I type this, my almost-seven-year-old is searching for music videos and online games on my computer, only to ask me how to spell something once every few minutes. She’s reading fluently. She’s having these sweet conversations with me ranging from what she built in Minecraft to what college she wants to go to. She poses daunting questions of what tampons are to where babies come from. (Don’t ask me for my answers, please.) And, my absolute favorite of all- she asks me about my day, how I’m feeling, and about me. She’s becoming compassionate and becoming a giver.
Its so difficult to imagine that in a few short years she will hate me. She will. Not many preteen kids don’t hate their parents. She will be the kid in the ChickFilA parking lot claiming I’m ruling her life. It’s life. It’s parenting. As terrifying as that is, it’s part of the deal and what I signed up for.
But for now, I am cherishing every moment, every random old person that ever said that to me. I’m truly embracing the independence, just choking back tears every now and then.