When you were three, it felt like we were stuck in a time warp or something and you'd be a toddler forever.
And sometimes I liked that feeling and sometimes not.
The weird thing? Now that you are nearly a teenager, the things that I miss the most are the things that used to just exhaust me when you were little.
I think I made about ten million grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. That was one of your favorite meals and it was easy and even I couldn't wreck it, so we had that a lot. Now, I can't remember the last time that I made you anything. You can do everything for yourself.
Remember green eggs and ham? On days when you were grumpy or not feeling great, I always made you green eggs and ham for breakfast. Green food dye. In your scrambled eggs and dabbed across canadian bacon. You never once failed to be totally charmed by my immense talents.
Now, it is harder to get your praise.
You are taller than me by 6 inches. I feel as if you tower over me. So, no...you don't crawl into my lap anymore. Sometimes, rarely...you put your head on my shoulder and when that happens, the world just sort of stops for me as I breathe you in.
I used to get so tired of carrying you, holding you. You were always so skinny, such a bony child. All elbows and knees. In crowds, you sought my lap, your head found it's way into the crook of my shoulder, hiding. Now, you lope around with your friends everywhere, crowds don't faze you a bit.
I used to get so tired of brushing your hair and braiding it. For one thing, you had the most sensitive head on the planet and if I brushed through one snarl, your eyes would tear up and you'd look at me with such incredulity, how unbelievable it was to you that I could actually hurt you like that. We used a lot of conditioner back then. And that no more tears spray, I think we went through a bottle per week.
Now, your hair is down to your waist, straight and golden with light blonde streaks. People go to hair salons to get hair just like yours. And I don't think I've brushed your hair or braided it in over a year.
You are still without curves or real breasts and I am relieved. You seem to be leaving your childhood behind in big leaps and when you start getting curves and breasts, it will be like the last farewell.
I know this sounds whiny, but as much as I like the person you are now, I sorely miss your baby self. I miss the way your eyes would follow me from your baby seat propped up on the kitchen table. I would walk around cleaning up the kitchen and your brown eyes would watch me with such adoration. I felt like Meryl Streep or something, a celebrity. When I would come close to you and lean down to kiss your bowed little lips, your arms would reach out and grab me, clutching me closer, closer.
I was your favorite person in the whole world, hands down.
Now, sometimes I feel as if I am only real to you when you need a ride somewhere or money.
You don't even ask my help with homework anymore, you have it all figured out yourself or you go online to that site that helps. Or ask Bing if it is math. Or call a friend and puzzle it out together.
My opinion used to really, really matter to you. I used to pick out your clothes without consulting you! I did this up until about two years ago and then you suddenly seemed to develop very picky opinions about clothes.
No frills of any kind.
Pink and purple were no longer your go to colors. Now, you like tans, beiges, browns. Tee shirts with sayings on them. Retro bands that you aren't really familiar with but I remember like Jethro Tull and Alice Cooper. The other day you had on a Nirvana tee shirt and I said something about how I once saw Kurt Cobain and Nirvana in concert when they weren't even popular yet and you smiled politely and said something like Oh, that's interesting and after that I haven't seen you wear that shirt again. It's as if my liking it jinxed it for you.
I am terrified that you will rebel against me and turn into a Republican. Please, Liv...I beg you. Don't do that to me. Be a Libertarian or an Independent if you don't want to follow in my liberal Democrat steps.
When I wore my bathing suit at the gym the other day, you looked at me and then looked away, shaking your head and smiling. When I asked you what was up, you said, "It's just that your bathing suit looks kind of funny on someone your age."
I was stung. Really stung. Jaysus. It wasn't like I was wearing a thong bikini. It was a one piece suit! What did you want me to wear? Something with a little skirt, maybe? Or a swimming dress like they wore in the 1880's? And last week when you came bouncing out of your room and I pointed out that we were both in our Chuck Taylors, you just smiled.
And then when we left the house to take you to a friends house, I noticed that you'd changed from your Chucks to some Keds sneakers.
I'm not an idiot. I know that at your age it is important for you to assert your individuality but can I just admit that it bothers me when you do that? The Liv I knew for most of your life would have been happy if we dressed like mother/daughter twins. You used to beg me to kiss you on the lips when I'd drop you off at school so that you could have some of my lipstick on you. And you thought that careening around in my high heels was the most fun thing to do in the world.
Now, I am suddenly your mother who is old and has really archaic opinions and not someone that you want to emulate in dress.
You haven't gotten mouthy yet. Not like some of my friend's kids. And for that, I am glad. But, sometimes I get the feeling that you are mouthing off to me in your head, which is exactly what I used to do with MY mother. I knew that if I sassed her, I would be slapped and/or grounded, so I would go up into my bedroom and whisper all my insults at her to the wall. I suspect that you do that with me.
But, I am so much NICER than my mother was, Liv. Truly. My mother never used to talk to me on car trips. She'd turn on this horrid radio program called Good mornin', Ladies! It was a local radio station program that catered to farm wives. I thought it was ridiculous. I listen to NPR, Liv. That is SO not ridiculous.
When I come into your bedroom to say goodnight, you are usually sweet and warm and just a little bit huggy. But, I don't crawl into your bed with you anymore to snuggle or read. And if I did, I suspect that this would bother you a great deal.
I miss those long lazy summer afternoons with you when you were a little girl. And you know...I remember those summers as being extremely long some days. I remember feeling that if I had to read one more chapter of Harry Potter or play one more game of Chutes and Ladders, I would lose what was left of my mind.
And I hated the fact that you seemed to need me to play Barbies with you in the bathtub all the time. You had this game where you lined up all your Barbies and pretended that they were diving in the Olympics. There was that one blonde Barbie with that awful turned up nose and slutty eyeliner that neither one of us liked much. You often had her do belly flops and we would look at each other and shake our heads pitifully at her lack of skill. We both really liked the brunette one best and her dives were always so swanlike and graceful. She usually won. But, truthfully? I got SO sick of those bathtub olympics.
Now, I am not allowed to even come in when you are in the shower or taking a bath and I get it. You are almost thirteen and being naked in front of anyone is horrifying.
Remember that chamomile tea that I always made for you with milk at night? I made it mostly because it made you sleepy and on some nights, I just really needed for you to go to sleep so that I could read a magazine and have a gin and tonic and just be by myself. I felt sometimes that you were like one of my arms. So much a part of me. And sometimes I craved privacy. Even going to the bathroom alone was a luxury. I can't tell you how many times I held you on my lap as I peed or yes, pooped. Because you could not stand to be without me for even a few minutes. If I did shut the door and you were stuck on the other side of it, I would see your fingers snaking under it, wiggling at me and you would ask me to sing so that you knew I was still there. So there I would be, sitting on the toilet and singing Oh my darling, Oh my darling...Oh my darling Clementine... and closing my eyes and counting the minutes until your naptime.
Now, you never interrupt me just because you miss me. You interrupt because you need a ride or need to ask me if Molly can sleep over.
And when you are gone, I miss you. I don't think you miss me, Liv. But, we've changed places because now a house without you in it seems strangely empty to me.
I am so proud of you, Liv and I love you so much, but I am slowly learning to love you more from afar now.
Like at your game last week when you were up to bat and I yelled out, "Go, Livvy Pie!" You looked over at me with this incredulous look as if I had just yelled, "Yo, Livvy! Has your period started yet?"
And then in the car on the way home, you asked me to please not shout out encouragement to you, that it made you feel embarrassed. I promised not to. But, it's hard not to yell, Liv. I want the world to know you are mine.
But, yes. I will shut up. Promise.
And then just when I think that all the tenderness between us is fading away, I will be in bed reading and you will crawl in with your book and smile and say you just want to read together for a while. So we read, each silently, with your toes sometimes seeking mine and a pause now and then to smile. You let me tuck your hair behind your ear then. And I confess that I keep losing my place in my book because my eyes keep watering. I never say anything because I don't want to scare you off. Any big emotional scenes are painful for you, I know this.
But, after you leave? I smell the place on the pillow where your head has been, breathing in your lemony scent.
If you are ever a mother, I think you will get this. If you are never a mother, you will get this too someday.
Liv, you went and grew up on me and I knew it was coming but it just seemed to come so fast!
I feel overwhelmed by your leaps and bounds.
And I miss those days when you'd fall asleep in my lap as I rocked you at bedtime and I would sit there inhaling you. Sometimes, I felt like I wanted to just eat your little cheeks, your tiny feet.
I still just want to inhale you sometimes. Okay...I have no desire to eat your feet anymore. But...if you ever feel like having me braid your hair?
I'm right here waiting.