I looked back at you in the rearview mirror the other day, and the girl sitting in that backseat was a little different than the girl I used to see back there. It’s you but it’s a slightly different you. The “you” I use to imagine is becoming the “you” of now. I’ve watched you in the past year as you head towards nine go from the girl that couldn’t hardly make it past midnight if we left you with a sitter to the girl that stays overnight and doesn’t want to come home with us, even after a week away with your cousin.
Though you’ll still crawl into bed with us, it’s not nearly every night like it used to be so I know these days are dwindling down too. That little girl’s wings are gaining more and more flight every day.
I swear we were just sitting at the kitchen table and we were teaching you how to read. Now not only have you finally found your book series and interest in reading, but you have tests and homework that counts now too. We have to check your grades online and you shed tears at low grades on assignments because you’re afraid you’ll disappoint us.
The little girl that use to chase her shadow around on the soccer field went out for club travel soccer this year. It challenged you not only physically but mentally. You pick and choose your activities and challenges now, and you take great pride in balancing them all with school and homework.
When you face struggles and disappointments with school or sports we have to hold ourselves back from stepping in and “saving” the day to take away your disappointment and frustration, but with pride in who you are becoming we now watch a little further back each day as you learn to navigate these challenges on your own.
Sometimes when I look at you I still see the toddler girl that I’d cuddle with after work and watch Bolt a zillion times a week but other moments like the other day when I looked in the rearview mirror I’m staring into the eyes of a young girl on the cusp of adolescence talking to me about how much she recognizes that I love watching her do her thing whether it’s on the soccer field, basketball court, or ball diamond.
I can see the self-confidence it brings her to see how much joy I get from watching her. It is in those moments I know not only am I seeing the new girl of who you are becoming but you also now see me as a different mother than the mother I was to you before. That fills me with joy and fear all at the same time.
You’re no longer the little girl that just saw me as the mommy that cuddled on the couch with you, rocked you at night, or pushed you in the stroller. I am no longer the mommy on a pedestal you once saw, but you now see me as the mom with flaws and struggles of her own. You call me out when I’m in the wrong; you question my intentions.
Yet you can also see my awe of you; you can begin to truly understand the depth of my love for you as we travel ahead on this road to adulthood. We’re almost to the half time point of raising you to adulthood and just when I thought it was all going to get easier I see it’s about to become a whole different kind of hard.
Now you see and understand so much more. You’re our first born. I don’t know how ready I am for this as you head down the backside of nine towards eighteen. What if I yell too much? Will I be there when you need me? Will I give you your space when I should? Will my constructive criticism speak to you louder than my praise?
In my journey to teach and guide you through these bumps in the road on the second half of this journey of your childhood what if the moments of disappointments stay with you more than the moments of joy because as your mother I will make mistakes too and won’t always know how to do this raising you thing right. What if my mistakes outweigh my rights? What if you choose to see the things I do wrong more so than the things I do right?
The pressure; the expectations; the struggles with school, sports, and friends- it’s all just beginning. You will step further and further away from me as you spread your wings of independence. At times I will pull you back and you will resist. Other times you will come to me to pull you back from the realities of growing up that await you.
Together and individually we will stumble and we will rise and one day before we both know it we will be standing on the other side of nine and the girl staring back at me won’t be in the rearview mirror but she’ll be a young woman sitting beside me as we travel the next road of this journey. Hopefully as those two women in the future meet eyes they will both know the other did the very best they could.
Bio: Angela Williams Glenn writes about the struggles and joys of motherhood on her website Stepping into Motherhood. Her book Moms, Monsters, Media, and Margaritas examines the expectations verse the realities of motherhood in our modern day digital era. She’s also been published with Chicken Soup for the Soul, Lose the Cape, and Red Tricycle. You can follow her on facebook.