By Carla Weiss
For years my daughter’s baby clothes sat in boxes in my parents’ house. She had a lot of really nice ones. The moms in my baby group used to call her “Best Dressed Baby in the Slope.” My mother-in-law is a tireless shopper who spent many happy hours buying beautiful bargains to adorn her granddaughters.
Last month my parents shipped the best dressed baby’s wardrobe to my sister’s grateful assistant, due to birth a girl any moment. And though I will not be needing baby clothes until I adorn my own granddaughter, this information has created a small tremor in my emotional wellbeing.
That small tremor started to flutter more powerfully this morning when I noticed that the new brown 6X leggings I purchased last month are officially capris. My daughter is growing so fast I can’t keep her in pants. If my kiss doesn’t make it to her upturned cheek quickly enough, she is already down the stairs to school without so much as a “bye”. I am not welcome in the bathroom anymore – except when she has forgotten her towel or has a hot-bath-induced philosophical question to ask. And there are secrets brewing in her mysterious, mischievous mind that are fervently whispered to her friends but not to me. Who am I anymore? Sometimes I think if a housekeeper replaced me one night, she wouldn’t be that concerned.
Lately I can’t seem to get organized. Maybe it’s my fragile emotional state? Too many pieces of paper shoved into folders hanging around our kitchen. Too many freelance jobs and shmoozey meetings and rushing home to pick up from after-school, holler about homework and slide some dinner on the table. I’m losing track of my center and craving definition.
In the evening we work together at the counter. She does her homework, madly erasing and muttering to herself, while I race to put the finishing touches on some project or write another thank you email. Tonight I realize the counter is moving. Bored and unfocused she is randomly kicking the base while doodling in the margins of her math sheet. I ask her to stop, I tell her I can’t believe she’s doodling on her homework – the conversation escalates and, before I can steady myself, a seismic argument begins. We are at war and she stomps off to her room in a full tweensplosion.
How can I be the mother I want to be when I am still searching for the person I want to be? How can I be sensitive to her increasingly mysterious needs when I am so busy juggling my own increasingly mysterious wants. How do I adjust to this girl/woman in my life when I still feel the best-dressed baby kicking in my arms?
She eats her dinner in silence glancing at a Lands End catalog as if she’s going to whip out her credit card and make a purchase at any moment. I ask her to apologize for her “inappropriate behavior.” She does. I launch into a lengthy analysis of “what went wrong and how we can do better next time.” She stops me and says, “It’s over mom, it’s over.” She’s right.
After bath she gets into her pajamas on her own and climbs into bed with one of her many books. I kiss her goodnight and she barely looks up at me. We are both sore around the edges from the earlier flare-up. I start cleaning up from dinner and returning more emails when I hear her calling me. She asks me to crawl into her bed and cuddle with her for just one minute. I sneak under her covers, misplacing the cat and curl my arm around her. She is warm and smells like my conditioner.
It is very still in her bed, Still and quiet. The world is swirling around out there but here I am on a solid island awash in soft warmth. She turns on her back, sighs, and says, “You made me mom, didn’t you.”
“Yes,” I whisper, “ with dad, I made you.”
“That’s very cool,” she says.
“Yes, very cool.”
Carla Weiss is a creative communications specialist. She just returned from an incredible 4-year stint in Hong Kong where she was a creative director for an experiential marketing company and learned to dragonboat. She spent most of her career developing musicals for the commercial theater. Her delicious husband Peter, delightful daughter Kate, and deranged cat Mowzer miss Hong Kong, love Park Slope, and sing showtunes very loudly. Carla blogs at www.brooklyntohongkong.