Until I had a child of my own, I’d had little to do with munchkins. I babysat a couple of times and volunteered at our church nursery on a few occasions—those “occasions” being when absolutely no one else was available—but until Celeste came into my life almost 17 years ago, I’d never changed a diaper or sang a lullaby or had cause to shove a syringe into someone’s nose and squeeze.
And then all I did was blink, and here we are, nearing the end of her junior year. Wasn’t it just yesterday I was writing about the trials of parenting a persnickety child? One whose sock seams had to be aligned just so and who could be punished with the threat of making her wear clothes to school that weren’t ironed?
When did my girl who loved shoes more than life become an embracer of bare feet at all times? When did she transition from high, perfect ponytails into those messy long waves? And how on earth did someone whose outfits were agonized over from necklace to brand name to toe nail color evolve into one with a wardrobe of tie-dyed Goodwill shirts, oversized hoodies and paint-splattered Converse?
Parenting experts are forever pontificating on the evils of being your child’s friend—a potentially dangerous misstep about which I completely agree—yet I can think of few words that better describe the relationship Celeste and I have besides friends. Granted, she’s frequently furious about the power this friend wields over her life, yet the connection she and I have seems to be one that goes beyond genetic markers and caesarian scars.
I enjoy her company. She seems to like mine. At least, when no friends are otherwise available. And she’s tired of reading. And there’s nothing good on TV.
I like how we can be quiet together and it isn’t awkward, or how we can say just a few words or raise an eyebrow, shoot a look, and our history fills in the rest.
I like the person she is, and am fascinated by who she’s becoming. I like how she will rage over injustices and indignities and unfairnesses that are suffered by others, even though her own life isn’t touched in any way beyond that of observer. Her fury is genuine and fierce and admirable.
And the kind of thing that can make a mom proud. Worried and occasionally anxious, too, but proud.
I wonder about the roads where these bends will take her, if she’ll become some sort of activist or if that fury will morph into something entirely different.
I wonder which of her friendships will last and which will fall to the wayside. I’ve grown to care for so many of these kids, don’t want them to become bit players or disappear altogether.
And I wonder how two people who dislike talking on the phone as much as she and I will maintain their bond once we’re separated by the miles that are coming, that get closer each year.
There’s so much that I never got to do myself that I hope she’ll experience, and so much that I did that I’m hoping she won’t.
I like the interesting individual my girl has been from the start. If she’d been a more ordinary child, I’d have had little to write about over the years. Still, I’ve been trying not to write about her quite so much. Although she’s never once complained about living her life in public, the older she gets, the more it seems an unfair intrusion.
One that would be easier to respect if she wasn’t so beautifully quirky.
And if I wasn’t so darn proud of being her mom.