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The sound of one heart breaking

It must be said that my girls are no longer babies. They are getting big, developing their own lives. Cases in point...

Boston, October 2007, Museum of Science

A child pointed to Persistence and said, "Baby!" Said child appeared about Persistence's age, and was at the time being carried by his mother. Persistence, on the other independent hand, was walking about of her own volition (her usual state). Persistence shrieked in fury and yelled back to the child, "I NOT BABY! YOU BABY!" and ran off, mortally offended. She could be heard muttering for the next hour, "I not baby!" And was quite pissy about it all.

Coastal Texas, October 2007, Elementary School

Patience begged me to come lunch with her at school on Thursday, so Persistence and I went. I had grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk in buckets. A big deal. This is Fine Kid Dining. She was waiting for me and happily leapt up to join me at the guest lunch table, a big table in the center of the cafeteria, set up for visiting parents. She was happy, initially, but then turned sulky. Sulky means sassy (which means rude and hurtful). Each attempt I made to reach and connect with her failed (which means rebuffed with sass).

I casually mentioned to Patience that I thought her lunch was ending in the next minute or so, and she asked how I knew. I told her because of the time but also because the lunch lady was at the end of her class's table with the trash can. She turned to look and her current special little friend waved. The teacher had the kids stand and queue up. Without a wave, a word, or a backward glance, Patience ran to join her class, and stood in a tight cluster with her two little best friends.

Persistence and I stood back by the guest table, utterly forgotten. In that moment, with a terrible twist of my heart, I knew Patience's life focus had moved beyond the family bubble. I felt, for the first time, what other mothers must feel when they lead their child to the bus or the kindergarten classroom for the first time: a sense of loss, a feeling of left-behindedness.

On the way back to the car, I clutched Persistence's hand a little too tightly. "No hold hands, Mommy, I big girl. I walk beside you. See?" she told me, yanking her hand back.

When I got to the car, I sat in the car for a moment. I felt urgent, so I used my emergency car phone to call my husband. He listened sympathetically as I said, near tears, "And she was so disdainful, like she was embarrassed of me. She's never acted that way before! Then she ran off to her friends like she couldn't get away fast enough, and didn't even say goodbye!" He said, "I'm sorry hon."

I hung up and tried to feel happy that Patience was happy, that she felt flush with the sense of social success.

I knew by tomorrow I would be, but right then I let myself grieve, just a bit.

Coastal Texas, October 2007, Pack-n-Ship Store

"Mommy," Persistence cried, persistently as I negotiated ground versus second day for a package I was shipping, "Mommy," she said again.

"Just a minute," I told the counter guy, turning to Persistence, "What is it honey?"

"See dis card!" she said, handing me a greeting card with a dog holding flowers on the front. I glanced at it, then handed it back, "That's cute sweetie." I started to turn back to the counter guy.

"Mommy!" she said urgently, "What say inside card?"

I flipped the card open, "It says..." my breath caught in my throat. I cleared my throat with an umm hmm, "It says 'I ruv you.'"

"Dood!" she cried, "Dat's the card I want to dive my daddy!"

I pulled out the money and gave it to her to pay the counter guy. How could I not?

In the car, I continued to glow with the sweetness of her act, and thought of how happily surprised my husband would be to get this card when he got home. These days, it's a crap shoot if he comes home to children who love or hate him. To come home to this gesture? I thought he might get a bit wet in the eyes.

Then it hit me, oh wow. The daughter-daddy dynamic and its progression through life really, really hit me. Today, the most important man in Persistence's world is dad. Twenty years from now? Someone else, most likely. I'll always have my mom role but my husband, his priority spot will change. Inside my chest, my heart burned and melted. Again.

Our children? Are growing. And this week? We feel it keenly.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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OK, I'm crying up here! Yep, they are growing up. It is hard to be the mom, but sometimes harder to be the dad. That card for daddy? Adorable!!
flutter said…
Babies do that, they do. Kind of fun from the outside to watch it happen, though...
Kyla said…
How sweet. And bittersweet. Some days it just hits you.
S said…
Oh, yes. You KNOW I get every word of this post.
Magpie said…
Did it actually say "I ruv you"?

I love the science museum vignette.

And my heart breaks a little for the whole thing, and for mine growing up too.
Suz said…
I love Persistence's reaction to being called a baby and, yes, understand the bittersweet as well.
Anonymous said…
Gets you right here *thumps chest* doesn't it? You can't really wish for them to stay small, but you can't really not wish for it either.
My son has just taken off lately --- in words, physical skills, every area of his wee small life.

And I'm sitting here in the dust wanting to push a rewind button but knowing that would be wrong, that this independence is what we urge.

Great post.
theotherbear said…
Great post. I do not have kids - but I could feel the pain of this!
You know...I so GET this! I've been there. The situation in the school lunch room. Just remember that she DID ask you to come. She wanted you there. It's just that once there, she was torn between wanting to be with her friends and wanting to be with her mommy. That's a great thing! Imagine if she'd cried when you had to leave. That would have broken your heart, too!

And the daddy thing - I think daddy remains number one in a girl's heart even after marriage.

Still, the truth is, they will be gone sooner than we think. The cliche is true - every moment is precious.

I think I'll go hug my boys now.

Thanks for the reminder and have a good Sunday!

Heidi :)
Catherine said…

I love that story!

Sometimes people will say "look at the baby!" regarding mine. I'll pause and he, really? How did it go by so fast?

Okay, now I'm all weepy...
atypical said…
The combination of mourning and joy - I know it well!

I wish I had time to write more (and comment on every post). I hope you can feel me responding in my head!

Christine said…
i know all of these feelings. it is so hard to swallow when you little girls grow and you can see the teenagers and women they will be.

Anonymous said…
Sigh... we were talking yesterday about a big-boy bed for my little one. But that will mean he NOT BABY! I don't know if I can do it.
Anonymous said…
Ah, Julie, I love these poignant moments. Surprisingly, they are some of my most optimistic times. I am happy to see my children growing up and I can imagine them being incredible adult people that I hope I get to know.
Ally said…
After a particularly difficult evening with my kindergartener tonight, where she was surly and rude and sassy and hysterical, this post really made me feel better. It's sad, these moments of pulling away, but your words helped me to feel like it's also normal. Thank you.

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