I've come to know myself much better since becoming a mom -- not that I have it all figured out, not by a long shot. I just understand that worrying isn't something I do, it's a part of who I am, and I know this because in the poetic justice that seems to come with DNA, my oldest daughter is a worrier.
Lately, Briar has been preoccupied with the idea of growing up. She seems convinced that by doing so, I will somehow cease to be her mom. Last night, after her sisters had been tucked in, we talked nose-to-nose about what growing up really means. I tried to explain that as she gets older she won't want to spend time with me.
"Instead of being annoyed with your sisters, you'll be annoyed with Dad and me." She pulled away and rolled her eyes, as if.
I tried a different tack. "You know how you helped me rake leaves today while your sisters played out back? That was incredible and it was very grown up. As you grow up, we'll keep doing that -- discovering new things together." I watched her as she considered it.
She took a breath, then she shook her head. I watched her perfect, little face begin to crumple.
I saw shimmers of my own tendency toward melancholy. Not a hopeless melancholy, more of a focus on the things that are so perfect that I literally need to mourn that they won't last forever. Her shoulders heaved and she choked out a squeaky, "It's just so tragic, mom."
I put my hand on her back and pressed my face into hers. "You know what, honey? It isn't, it's beautiful. The thing about life, about us, is that we feel so much. The fact that you are crying isn't a bad thing, it means you love this time. I do too, but no matter what happens, I will always be your mom and this time will always exist."
I stopped and looked at her face. I wished that I could keep her from hurting, but I'm 39 and the truth is that the ache only gets deeper. I stroked her cheek and whispered, "I still remember the sounds you made as a baby, they way your tiny head smelled when I pressed my face in to kiss you. I remember how excited Daddy and I were to meet you. I love that you cry and worry about these things. It reminds me a little bit of how I was at your age. Of course, you are way funnier."
"I am? I'm funny?" She asked, beaming with a bright red, sniffly nose that looked exactly the way it did when she was a baby.
"Yes. You are." She leaned back, contented. Her arms slipped around my waist and she rested her head on my chest. We sighed together and I rubbed her back until she fell asleep. As I slipped out of her bed, my shoulders began to heave and tears ran down my face.