Skipping Down the Slippery Side of the Slope: Transitioning the first word to pre-teenage shyness.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Recently, I realized that I’ve come full circle.
My daughter is 10, bordering the edge of tween-dom that is only a scant (and expensive) walk up to the threshold to the teenage years. I’ve been holding my breath, because I’m not sure if I am ready. The problem is not with my daughter growing up, but with me. Mainly because I suffer from acute “parent-time” syndrome, which is a condition sticking us as we merrily skip down the slippery slope and prone to being blindsided by nostalgia. It happened to me the other day.
You see, when I held my baby in my arms for the first time, she was new. And I realized that everything about her was going to be new. The smell of baby-fresh fabric softener on her blanket was new. Learning how to sooth her cry was new. Introducing her to baby cereal was new. Mastering the art of changing a toddler’s diaper in a stroller was not only new but also difficult, yet not as difficult as keeping the toddler seated in the stroller.
I fondly recall my baby’s first word. While poking around in a thrift store her father pointed to a strange orange-billed duck figurine. He asked her what it was and she said, “Duck”. The baby talked! We brought the duck home as a souvenir.
As she changed from a baby into a little kid, I sealed the images of her first day of school, her first report card, first dance recital, and first loose tooth into my memory banks. However, the newness of these moments began to wane. They grew strangely reminiscent of my own childhood, which made me ask—am I ready for what lies ahead as she grows into a young lady? It’s all too new.
The other day I took her food shopping with me. You must understand that since uttering her first word my daughter hasn’t stopped taking. There’s a constant dialogue hanging around her shoulders no matter what she does; and she doesn’t do anything quietly, including sleep. So on that afternoon she rambled constantly talking about everything and everyone; from the moment I picked her up from school, while we crossed town, circled the parking lot, got out of the car, and walked into the entrance of the store. I half listened as I fumbled with my reusable shopping bags while trying to pull two shopping carts apart.
Suddenly she stopped.
Then she yelled, “DUCK!”
She didn’t repeat her first word as a noun, but as a verb. She ran around the rows of shopping carts in order to crouch down and hide.
I had no idea what was wrong. There weren’t ducks flapping around the vestibule of the grocery store. All I saw was a nice looking young boy and his mother. The boy separated the fused cars with a quick tug, took one and followed behind his mother as she entered the store.
“Is he gone yet?” my daughter asked from her hiding spot.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Can we leave now?”
“No,” I answered. “We still have to shop. Who is he?”
She got up slowly, brushing the dust from her knees, and explained, “That’s Benjamin. He’s in my class. You know. I told you all about him. Katie thinks he likes me, but I don’t. Can we just leave now? I don’t want to run into him.”
“Because he’ll want to talk.”
“I don’t want to talk to him. I have nothing to say.”
This was new. My daughter not having anything to say, that was very new. My daughter avoiding a boy because of a sudden state of shyness, that was very, very new. Reluctantly she followed me into the story and happily we didn’t run into Benjamin or his mother, but we did run into a great sale on paper towels.
Nostalgia hit me upside the head; my daughter and boys, my baby and her first words, swaddling my her in pink blanket, my having to let go and letting her walk on her own. What comes around goes around, and on this side of the slope I remember how much fun I had as a kid. I also know the agony of crushes, the stupidity of peer pressure, tricks to handling immature angst, the newness of motherhood, and the highs and lows of adulthood. I think I know, sort-of, what to expect. If I can recall handling the newness of keeping a toddler in a stroller, and remember to view nostalgia with a clear eye, then—yes—I’m ready for my daughter’s next steps forward.