That’s the question I ask myself almost daily.
Is it today that Margaret, my 12-year old daughter, is suddenly going to want me to stop singing her a soft lullaby as she falls to sleep as I have done since she’s a baby? Is today the last day that she will ask me to explain the definition of a word to her? Is it today that she will be embarrassed to give me a hug and a kiss in public?
Today, I had to go onto her school campus to speak with school staff about a parent portal I need access to. Margaret found me and her sister easily and we walked together to the IT office. The entire time I was thinking, “is she walking slightly ahead of me or is that my imagination?” As we were leaving the IT office, I decided to preempt her so I turned to her.
Me: “Margaret, are you embarrassed to be seen with me in front of your friends?”
Margaret: “No mom, I’m not embarrassed to be seen with you, I’m embarrassed of what you’re going to say!”
I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved or insulted. So I did what I do best: asked more questions.
Me: “Margaret, what have I said that embarrassed you?”
Margaret: “What you said just now, mom!”
Me: “What did I say?
Margaret: “You asked me if I’m embarrassed to be seen with you! In front of everyone!”
Me, (very defensively): “But I didn’t yell it, Margaret. Nobody heard me but you and your sister!”
The other night, I was too frustrated to sing and pray over Margaret when she went to bed. I know that sounds like I’m an awful human being but I needed to settle down before I could genuinely pray for her. (I could have maybe gotten away with faking the song but I am fairly certain God would have known it if I faked the prayer.) So I kissed her head and walked out of her bedroom. I immediately heard her ask in a soft, disappointed voice, “you’re not going to sing to me or pray over me?” I replied, “Not going to sing but I’ll pray over you later.” Then, the question came barrelling through my head: “Is today the day? If so, what have I done? This may be my last chance”! I didn’t go back in until later, but the next night I was met with the same question. I pushed it out of my head and I just embraced the moment, fleeting as it might be in the end.
I don’t know if it’s healthy or not to have this question on the forefront of my mind all the time. I heard a woman tonight liken the process of our children growing up to a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly – if we don’t pay attention, we’ll miss it happen before our very eyes. If this question is what keeps me focused on all that is here and now in my parenthood, then I am grateful for it. Because I am the kind of easily distracted person who misses a lot of things I shouldn’t miss. And I do not want to miss my daughter’s magical transformation into a butterfly. Even if it means she will no longer want me to sing her to sleep at night.