Sea change - FamilyEducation

Sea change

July 23,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

My little girl has grown up a lot this summer. She hasn't so much grown bigger, as she's grown older, more like an elementary school child, and not the preschooler she used to be. When I catch sight of her out of the corner of my eye these days she seems longer-legged, more solid, her face is older, somehow--I can't quite explain it. She's also--inexplicably--become a one-girl, card-carrying member of her own fan club--the Mama Fan Club. She follows me everywhere, heaping praise and compliments upon me constantly--enough to make a person blush; I am so unworthy of it all: "Mama, your eyes are so pretty today!" Or, "Mama, your hair smells nice!" Or, "Mama, you're the best person in the WHOLE world." Sometimes she lavishes so much attention and praise on me that I feel embarrassed, and squirm inwardly. She'll pat my cheeks, smooth my hair, and do everything but make me breakfast in bed. I wonder why she has become so clingy, so adoring these past few weeks--is she insecure? Afraid? Lonely? When she's tired she'll climb into my lap and her fingers will find their way to my neck where she'll pinch me gently--love pinches--we dubbed these long ago, the gesture a carry-over from her nursing days. It's amazing to me that her hands will still resort to that once familiar gesture, dug up from long ago, from days when she was still so small, and needed me so entirely. Then I remember that she's still so small, even at five--she's a little girl, my little girl. There's almost just one month left until T. starts school. I think she feels this, and I know I do. For no matter how we will it not to happen, I have learned from experience that the crossing-over, that giant, impossible step over the threshold into elementary school is a big one, and there's often no looking back. I've been a parent long enough to know I should hoard away her love pinches and her clinginess and her adoring words. I remind myself of this each time I feel a twinge of impatience (I can't even use the bathroom without hearing the pitter patter of little feet and a hand jiggling the knob) and resentment, even. Maybe this summer is her gift to me; this time when I seem to be her entire world, her universe, her sun in the sky. How did this person: Baby T. Become this person? Beachcomber