“I don’t like you, Mommy,” I whispered into my mother’s ear. “I love you.” I giggled, tickled with myself. I thought I was the cleverest 5-year-old she could ever meet. I nestled into her lap, certain I would fit there forever.
I asked her a few years ago if she remembered this moment, which is still so vivid in my mind. She said, “No, but do you know what I do remember? I remember the exact moment when I realized your world no longer revolved around me.”
I asked her to tell me about it. She declined.
Fast forward, oh, about a thousand years. I have my own daughters. They are 6 and 8 years old. I am their favorite person. Of course, if they’re hanging out with just my husband, he’s their favorite person. Or if I’m forcing them to do their homework, he’s again the easy favorite. Seems fair.
When I pick up my oldest, Zaffron, from school, her face brightens and she yells, “Mommy!” with the same delight I used to have when I heard the tinkling, tinny music from the ice cream truck down the street. “Ice cream!”
She even pulled the “I don’t like you, I love you” joke on me recently. “I got you, didn’t I?” she asked grinning.
I grinned too. But with a small tug of anxiety. This is all so temporary.
Zaffron and I were standing across from her school hand in hand. When a boy she has a crush on walked near us, she casually dropped my hand. After he passed by, she grabbed it again, not missing a beat. That was last Monday. Last Thursday, the scenario repeated itself. This time, her little hand didn’t seek mine out after the boy had passed. As we walked silently to her classroom, she was perfectly content, completely unaware she had skipped that second step, so vital to reassuring me of my place in her heart.
Yesterday in the car, where most of the important stuff comes up, I realized boys aren’t the only things that might force the gap between us wider.
My husband and I adopted Mgazi, my youngest, from Africa when she was 2 years old. We’ve always been very open with her about her adoption, sharing as many details as are age appropriate.
“Mommy, would it be OK if I loved my other mommy too?” she asked.
“Your Africa mom? Of course! You can love her as much as you want, honey.”
“Will you be mad if I love her more than you?”
Zaffy couldn’t take it. “What the heck are you talking about? You don’t even know that lady!”
“Mgazi, you are going to find that, as the years go by, you will love lots of people in different amounts. Sometimes lots. Sometimes not so much. Someday you might feel that you love your Africa mommy more than me. That’s OK.”
“Don’t be mad, but I think I love her more than you right now.”
A sigh from Zaffy.
“It’s OK, Zaff. You too, Gaz. You love your Africa mom just as much as you need to.”
I spoke with as much love and reassurance as I could muster. After all, she’s only 6. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She hasn’t seen her birth mother since she was three days old.
I’ve got time.
My mother says she knew exactly when things were different between us. Like a Band-Aid that was suddenly ripped off. My Band-Aid, which is Hello Kitty by the way, is being pulled off more slowly, gradually revealing the bittersweet heartache I’ll endure as my children grow up and away from me, bit by bit.
This post was originally published on Families in the Loop, an amazing parenting site where parents let loose, under the title, Mom’s Growing Pains: The Sweet Sorrow of Raising Kids.
(photo credit: arztsamui/freedigitalphotos.net)