Parenting is Bittersweet

Earlier today, while I was in the living room trying not to die from yet another heat wave in San Diego, my daughter was in the kitchen for the umpteenth time as if something different would be in there with each visit, and she hollered over to me, ‘Hey, Mom, what would be a really great surprise?’

I didn’t even have to think of an answer. ‘Rain. That would be a really great surprise.’

She laughed, and clanked around in the kitchen some more. ‘Uh, but then it would be really humid. How about Channing Tatum showing up at the door with some double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream?’

I blinked. She’ll be twelve next month. Too young in my naive parenting mind to have a Tatum crush. ‘Yeah…that’d be a surprise, all right,’ I mumbled. Then I realized she was opening the cabinets, opening the fridge and obviously not doing dishes, like I thought. ‘What are you doing?’

‘It’s a surprise,’ she answered.

It was well over 100* outside and not much cooler in the house. I doubted she was crazy enough to attempt making something to eat on the stove or in the oven. I was totally wrong. After some verbal and irritated prodding from my sweaty throne upon the couch, she finally told me she was making homemade gnocchi.

‘What?’

I wanted to say to her: You’re crazy, child! It’s a million degrees in this house! Eat an apple! But hey, she had the desire to cook, said she’d been watching a cooking show and was in the mood. So, I let her make gnocchi. And garlic butter sauce. She didn’t burn down the kitchen and they came out pretty good. I’ve full faith she will inherit her father’s abilities in the kitchen, which is a relief.

Fast-forward a few hours to now. I’m reviewing audiobook files for work and put the TV on for background fodder and just happened to click over to CNN where a repeat of the Republican Debate is on. My daughter, wanting to spend time with me even though I’m working with my earplugs in, draped herself across the end of my bed out of absolute boredom and watched the debate for over half an hour. She even chatted about some of the topics, but her comments were mostly about the funny faces that Trump is known for. We aren’t political in this house, definitely not Republicans, but we have an open dialogue about all kinds of things. Regardless of whether or not she understood half of what was discussed, I’m amused she lasted as long as she did. I mean, she could have chosen to watch a Disney channel show instead in her room, alone.

When she finally sauntered off to find something more interesting to do, it struck me how much she’s grown up. Her seven-year old brother grumbles with protests and escapes the room like his butt is on fire any time I put the news on. But she’s slowly transitioning into a young lady. Thankfully, there’s a few years before that truly happens, but I can see little tid-bits of the girl slowly leaving and the teen peeking through.

Her father and I should be happy. We should feel proud and as if we are hitting another monumental milestone with our oldest child, but in reality, it feels sad. Bittersweet. When a baby is born, we can’t wait for the first time they smile, laugh, roll over, crawl or say that first word. But then we panic because a crawling baby gets into everything and we wish for a moment they were still tiny and immobile. A talking toddler is sometimes exhausting and often times rude, making us question why we thought language was an appropriate thing to teach them. And puberty – that’s something different entirely. The first decade of her life is slipping away and she’s inching closer and closer to independence and I’m left wondering how quickly the next few years will go.

I imagine that one day, not too far away from this one, she’ll be living on her own, cooking her perfected gnocchi for her friends and listening to political debates in the background while she moves about her little apartment or house doing chores. And at the end of the day, she might curl up on the couch with a girlfriend or three to relax and watch a movie. No doubt, she’ll be enjoying a bowl of double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, watching Channing Tatum in his latest film.

And she’ll be happy. She’ll be healthy. She’ll be her. The little baby her dad and I brought into the world, that went through the busy crawling months, the rude and stubborn toddler stage, the challenging middle school years and blooming teens to end up the beautiful adult she was meant to be.

I hope to see that happen. To be there as she grows into herself, like she’s doing now, eleven years old, soon to be twelve. The girl who still wants to lounge on her mom’s bed and will suffer through a political debate just to hang out. She’ll get my attention tonight, because one day she may not need it. She’ll have successfully grown up, just like her dad and I have spent years raising her to do, only to realize too late that it wasn’t enough time…

And that is why parenting is bittersweet.

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