I know she is growing up, but as I witnessed her pulling out the summer peppers and preparing for their forthcoming carving, I was both impressed and saddened that she didn’t need my help. Still young, but the oldest of four, my daughter removed the stem ends, sliced the pepper’s ribs from the sides, and pushed the seeds away. Scrutinizing each step as she carefully and craftily proceeded, constructing and cooking lamb piperade for dinner. I stood off to the side as she deftly handled the blade, and acknowledged that just because she is able to keep her fingers from the edge of the knife doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous when she is handling things that could harm her.
Peel. Chop. Sauté.
Disgust crosses her young face. It is time to handle the lamb. She asks for help, not because she needs it to get the job done, but because she hates the feel of raw meat. I join her, finally invited into the space she has set apart to create and compose the dish. The time of spending every moment together has long past; it has given way to school, books, and her own personal preferences. She no longer needs her mama to entertain her, groom her, or feed her. It brings great freedom to us both, but I have begun to see how I will need to hang on to her as she lets go of me.
Together, we shape the raw meat, and I see a shift in her; a softening. The disgusting feeling becomes soothing as she squeezes the ground lamb and lets it push between her fingers. I look into her eyes, a similar color to my own, and see the joy. How much she still appreciates my attention. How often these days it gets overlooked and yielded.
I don’t intentionally ignore her, but in all her budding independence is a very capable and responsible girl. This maturation makes it a simple slip to sacrifice her need for connection for the urgent demands of her younger siblings. I find myself daily dwelling in this uncomfortable balance. I’m constantly confronted by the tension of letting her go to more fully embrace what it means growing up in her own skin, and wanting to hold tight so that the world doesn’t corrupt her. My thoughts of “Not yet, world. She’s still mine” are constantly at odds with, “Train her up, and send her out.”
Her life is not mine; I don’t want it to be. I want to see the masterpiece that is created in her life. She is my daughter, but she is not me. She does not belong to me, and she is becoming her own woman. I want nothing less, but I am also on high alert. Searching the road before her for hazards, while at the same time letting her walk into the world step-by-step to find her own path. A path not constructed from my own hopes for her, but one she blazes on her own. I step back to offer space as she redesigns, creates, and dreams the dreams placed in her own heart.
Perseverance. Courage. Selflessness.
I will keep having her take on more responsibility, make her try things on her own, and equip her to bring light into dark places, but in all this sending she also needs to know I am here. I have her back. When she falls I will be here to catch her. So I hold on, and say yes when she invites me in.
I offer her cautionary tales filled with mistakes I made when I was young, foolish, and propelled by blind emotion and ignorant sentiment. She is captivated with my growing up stories about classes failed and summers spent in school paying for poor decisions. I disclose my own folly of chasing passion without wisdom, and reveal the deep pain that resulted. I tell her, “Have hope, there are truths bigger than what you see.”
We are laying the foundation for a relationship that will never become obsolete. She will always be my daughter, and I will always be her mother. Together, we laugh and hold on to one another in these shared experiences, and our evolving understandings of the world.
We sit down to eat the meal she prepares, savoring both the food and the moments of our intertwined but separate lives. I release the control I am so tempted to grip, and intentionally capture connection. Holding to the gift given to us as mother and daughter.