My oldest daughter turned 10 a couple of months ago. I have just recently come to the realization that I have lost my little girl. The temper tantrums have stopped. The crying for no reason has stopped. The clingy-ness of a small child is something I will never see in her again, and it all passed by in a flash of what I was feeling was relief as it slowly developed. Her developing independence, and becoming more self sufficient is easier on me because I have smaller children that still need help with the little things, like washing their hair, extra hugs at bedtime, reminding and repeating most things I ask them to do, and it’s tiring, especially since I am the only adult in the house, and I have a never-ending to-do list of my own everyday that I need two hands for. But when I stop to really look at it, I miss it. The extra hugs, the extra questions, the need that a child feels for just their mother. I feel like I am experiencing a loss, something I took for granted that I will never have back, my baby. I hate myself just a little bit for wanting those seemingly daily “annoyances” to one day stop, because now they have, and there is no turning back.
She is now at an age where she wants to try the things she has been taught are not OK. Pushing boundaries, sneaking sugary snacks before dinner, pushing snooze on her alarm clock on purpose, attempting to leave the house without a proper jacket on for the weather, skipping brushing her hair before we leave the house, because she just doesn’t feel like it today. Independence; making her own decisions because there is no longer an adult one step behind her to remind her about every little thing, every minute of the day, and learning that there are consequences to her decisions. Like – we might be late for a birthday party because yes, you need to brush your hair before we go out somewhere. And a stomach ache because she was trusted with a whole bag of candy to ration, and did not choose to do so. Being rushed, because you wanted to sleep in, but we still have to leave the house for school on time. Feeling annoyed with her mom on a daily basis for the first time in her life because I ask her to wear weather-appropriate clothing, and she may have to go change. Something she never felt toward a parent before. She is at an age where she cannot understand that her mom and dad have her best interests at heart and feels bothered by our insistence to take care of herself the way we see is best. (Like dressing warm and eating healthy), and it is new for me, too.
I feel like the days when I would pick her up from school and ask how her day was and she would talk and talk and talk and tell me all these wonderful things, and be so happy to see me – are long gone. Now I look at her longingly as I ask how her day was, and she says “fine,” and stares out the window; most days wanting no part in more conversation with me. I miss the days where I just wanted a few minutes of no questions, no more “look at this” and “watch me” and “mom, mom, mom” – and think how selfish that was for it to even cross my mind, now that it’s gone. I was not considering future-me that would be without this undivided attention and affection from my daughter.
Now I have new frustrations, and wonder if I will miss these one day too? Not 100% sure I will miss trying to reason with someone who is old enough to be reasoned with, but is choosing to be stubbornly unreasonable, about everything. She is now at an age where she notices that adults make mistakes. I see that it is not just me that feels like I am at a loss. She has lost the image in her mind that adults are perfect, that we always know what is best and always make the right decisions, say the right things, and know absolutely everything. Finding out that your parents, and other adults in your life are human, is hard. She no longer agrees with everything I say. My little angel who used to look at me like I was the light of the universe, now can’t help but argue, because she has seen me make mistakes. I can see that she gets angry about it, and is not sure how to deal with it or talk about it. It sometimes comes out as rude, but the reality is that she just doesn’t know how to comprehend it yet, or how to express herself appropriately. This is all new to her.
She has asked me before if I am sure that she was not switched with another child at the hospital, or that someone else might be her mom. She makes it out to be a joke, but I know she is at the age where she is wondering where exactly she belongs. She can no longer relate in the same way to the adults in her life like she used to, as they are becoming different to her, now that she is more aware of different aspects of life, and growing up. She is finding it hard to identify with her younger sister and cousins, who she has always been so close to, because they are not going through the same things as she is experiencing.
The days of make believe, imagination and wonderment are fading, and she is much more interested in realty, asking questions about life, what ifs, and her future. I can see that she feels very alone, and there is not a thing I can do about it. This breaks my heart, but she needs to go through this to find herself.
I don’t want to make the mistake of leaping into thinking this is puberty. It is not. This is 10. I started to tell myself – she is growing up, she is becoming a teenager, this is the pre-puberty attitude, mood swings, hormones, etc – but that is wrong. Pushing her ahead of where she is and expecting her to be a young adult, push responsibilities onto her that she is not ready for while she deals with all of these life changes, is going to make things even tougher on both of us. All I can do is try my best to understand her and be there for her while she processes these changes to her world; while I quietly mourn the loss of my baby, as the little-kid stages are now long gone with her. These are her last years of play, before the puberty years really do start, and I want her to enjoy them as much as she can, and I am seeing the importance of really stopping to enjoy moments with her, and my other girls; because the days can sometimes seem like they are very, very long – but the years really are short.
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