It never fails to amaze me. The things that I miss most as Liv grows up are the things that used to make me the most weary.
When she was an infant, I longed for the day when she could walk and I wouldn't have to carry her everywhere. Then she started walking and I found myself missing those long hours of holding her. Now, I was following her, snatching away her hands from somewhere, re-directing her.
When she started walking, I wanted her to be trained so badly. I was weary of changing diapers. And then one day, she was trained and I called the diaper service to tell them that I wouldn't need them anymore and felt jubilant...for about a week. And then I was driving down my street and noticed the diaper service van delivering a bag of fresh diapers to someone else's house. I remembered that clean, fresh scent of opening that bag of clean cloth diapers every week. I had less recall of yanking out the bag of dirty diapers from her diaper pail and hauling them out to the front porch to be picked up. I missed Liv kicking her legs as I changed her, the strawberry kisses on her belly, the sprinkling of baby powder and her saying, "nice, nice!" as I did it.
I used to look into her dark brown eyes and wonder what she would have to say when she could finally speak.
Plenty. She had plenty to say. Her first word was "water." And once that was said, the rest came tumbling out: mama, light, pizza, pretty, bird, dog, tree. She talked early and with remarkable clarity. I remember long, mind numbing days when she was the only person to whom I spoke all day long.
She was very shy until she was about six. I used to get weary of her hands finding anywhere on me to latch on nervously when someone would even say hello to her. She would shake her head no and put her face determinedly into my skirt so that she didn't have to talk. She preferred to only talk to me. And to talk a LOT.
On her first day of pre-school, she held on to me so tightly that the teacher had to pry her fingers off of me and gently shoo me away, saying she would be fine as soon as I was out of sight.
She wasn't. An hour and a half later, her teacher called to tell me that I needed to come get Liv. She had not stopped wailing the entire time, would not be deterred from her main goal: getting me back asap. She broke the school record for crying and carrying on.
When I saw her sitting on an aide's lap, steadily weeping, my heart went into my throat. She saw me and ran blindly to me, scared, her arms going around my neck in a chokehold. Her teacher came out of the room and gently told me that it was obvious that Liv was not ready for school at three years old. Maybe next year.
In the car on the way home, Liv told me in a shuddering voice that she had thrown up in her teacher's hands. She was mortified with embarrassment. We talked and agreed that no, she did not have to go back to school until she was ready. I rocked her to sleep after lunch and tried to put her into her bed but she had a lock of my hair held so tightly in her hand, so afraid that I would leave her again, that I ended up just holding her while she slept for three hours straight. For days after that, I had to reassure her that I would not leave her again until she was ready.
Secretly, I was worried. What if she was never ready?
The next year, like clockwork, she was ready. She was shy and a little hesitant, but her curiosity was bigger than her fear and she started pre-school.
With each year, she has gained more independence and now as a third grader, she is slowly stepping away from me even farther.
Now, I'm the one saying things like, "Do you want to bake some cookies with me?" or "How about a trip to the park?"
She is the one who honestly prefers to be with her friends, but kindly makes time for me because she sees how much I need it.
We have switched places slightly and while she still needs/wants me, it is on a much smaller plane. And of course, this is as it should be.
But, I miss her. She doesn't fit in my lap well anymore, her long colt legs hang to the floor and her body feels like a bag of hangers. She is skinny and gangly and not content with long sessions of cuddling.
When I drop her off at school, she no longer lingers to kiss and hug me several times. Now, we have a goodbye ritual. She blows a kiss to me. I catch it and put it in my pocket. Then I blow a kiss to her and she does the same. No arms around my neck. No wet little mouth on my cheek. But, I catch that kiss every time.
When I pick her up from school, she is full of news about this friend or that friend, what Miss Perry said.
At night, I still run her bath, but I no longer bathe her. I wash her hair, but she bathes herself. And then plays with her barbies or just soaks. When she is finished, she no longer needs me to dry her off, she does it on her own. We meet in her room to read a chapter of a book, but she no longer sits in my lap as we read. She lays in her bed.
I miss what made me the most weary: her hanging all over me constantly. There was a time when I wasn't sure where I left off and she started. Now, we are two distinct people. We love each other, but she isn't attached to me in a literal sense.
She is just so....big. She has opinions. She loves me, but she doesn't think I hung the moon.
I look at her and I don't see my baby anymore. I see my little girl. Soon I will see my big girl and then my teenager and then my grown woman daughter.
And I think back to those days of endless touching, of long stroller rides, of feeling as if I were her whole world and god, it got heavy on my shoulders some days. Now, I am standing off to the side and watching her with my heart still in my throat, but her hands aren't reaching for me anymore. They are reaching for life, for the outside world. Her own two hands are stretched out wide instead of just around my neck.
It is as it should be. I know that.
But, I miss her. I miss my baby.