On Monday, reality hit me at the Mat Hatter’s Tea Party.
Grammy and Auntie surprised my daughter Sophia with a ticket to Disneyland for her seventh birthday the night before, and Hubby gave me one so I could go with them too (we left her little sister at home). I was actually a little worried that Sophia would rather I not go, so she could have the day with her two baby cousins, her grandma and her super fun aunt without big mean mommy getting in the way.
Imagine my surprise when what she wanted all day was to be with me. Hold my hand. Sit next to me on Thunder Mountain. Be in my row on Pirates of the Caribbean.
At four o’clock, our family went home to dinner, and Sophia and I were left totally on our own to ride roller coasters till we were queasy. We ran straight for the Matterhorn, and then, still pumped full of adrenaline, got in line for the Tea Cups. At the front of the line, I asked some European tourists if they would take our picture, and lifted Sophia up on the railing for the shot. She threw her arms around me, and pressed her little cheek against mine, knocking her Mickey Mouse ears askew. I felt her joy at that moment – and her love.
Suddenly, I looked at her and realized: I am her mom. The only one she has. The only one – God willing – she will ever have. I’m the one she’ll complain to her girlfriends about from age 13 on. And right now, I’m still the center of her world.
All day I had been seeing Sophia in the context of her baby cousins (one is two years old, one three months), and she looked huge, mature, self sufficient. If I’m totally honest, in a way I’ve been thinking of her that way since she was three and a half, when her baby sister was born. I sometimes sniff with nostalgia that my first born is growing up, but in the next moment treat her like she's older than she really is, expecting her to have the emotions of a much older person. But now, holding my hand, in a sea of grownups, waiting for the giant purple tea cup to become available, I saw her as small, vulnerable, innocent, and desperately attached to me.
I’m sad to say that I sometimes forget how much this darling girl needs me. Even more, how much she wants me – my attention, my affection, my time. It took standing with her in fantasy land to shake me into reality. The biggest thrill of her day at Disneyland was having me all to herself.
This revelation could have engulfed me in a sea of regret. The last three years flashed before my eyes and I saw all the moments I missed this about Sophia, or worse, realized it, but was too selfish to give it to her. The center of her world often treated her like a peripheral concern! I know revelation is kind of an overused term, but I think this really was one. Because immediately after I glimpsed the potential regret, I saw the solution. I haven’t blown it! There will be plenty of moments that I can choose make her feel like a precious, chosen person. This was one of them!
Still, just to clarify, “Do I seem like a mom to you?” I asked her before I could stop myself.
“Uh, yeah.” Puzzled look on her little face.
“Do I seem like a grown up?”
“Yeah. Duh.” Eye roll under the mouse ears.
Wow. I’m the mom, not even a newbie mom wearing a holy halo of sleep deprivation, but a full-blown adult mom who helps with homework and signs permission slips. My daughter is done with diapers and baby food; she goes to school and has slumber parties. But at the same time, thank God, I thought as we twirled around under the Mad Hatter’s Chinese lanterns, seven is still just a little, little girl. I’ve still got time.