I pulled a tooth today. Her tooth. Small, opaque and worn-down at the edges. Just an ordinary little tooth. Nothing unusual in this simple act; I have done it dozens of times. But today something was different, something changed. She didn’t need to be comforted. We didn’t marvel at the wonder of the tooth. We didn’t talk about the arrival of the Tooth Fairy. No condolences given to the lost tooth; no congratulations given to the new tooth.
My daughter turns 12 this summer. She is beautiful. She is smart. She is charming. She is all these things and more. But, there is one thing she is not … she is no longer mine. She is her own person. She has found her own self. No longer will she look to me to gauge her reactions, form her opinions or base her judgments. She will look into her own mirror, no longer needing my image to help her see her own.
I love the little girl I nurture. I adore the young woman she is becoming. It is my own role in her life that has me at such a loss. She has always been mine. When nothing else was certain, she always was.
Husbands have changed. Houses have changed. Occupations have changed. Nothing in my life has ever been permanent or guaranteed. Until I had her. With her came the knowledge that someone loved me more than anything else in the world. She loved me. She needed me. She wanted to grow up to be just like me. How did I know this? She would wrap her little arms around me, hold me close and tell me just that. Who was the caregiver and who needed the care? The lines were crossed over and over again.
But through all the changes and struggles, there she would be … my daughter. In my worst hour, looking panic dead in the eye, she would reach out and press her soft cheek against my tear-stained one and whisper that all would be fine. And, it always was.
My daughter. Mine.
My maternal right to be adored above all else has been ripped from its roots, just like I pulled that tiny tooth. And with nothing growing in its place, I find myself staring at an empty hole. I never dreamed that the rejection experienced by the mothers of adolescent females could possibly apply to me.
Not from my child. She is mine.
So here is my new truth. Here is what I know for certain: My daughter must reject me in order to clear the path for all that she will become. This darling child does not hate me. She is simply learning that she isn’t me. What I could not separate, she has. And while I can grieve for my loss, I cannot resent the child for doing what had to be done. I gave my daughter life. Now I must give her the ability to live that life as herself, not as me.
Someday my daughter will see pieces of me in who she has become. Her face will age and reflect mine. She will open her mouth to speak and my voice will echo in her ears. She will carry my love in her heart no matter where she goes. My daughter will know that some things can be separated but never parted.
… And she will know that she will always be mine.
Shawnna Rigsby is married and a mother of two children. She lives in a tiny town in Indiana and writes as a hobby late at night.