It really wasn’t that long ago.
I remember pulling back the blanket that she had just been swaddled in, taking a first glance at her tiny face. I had dreamed of that moment for months and suddenly she was there in my arms. I touched her cheek and cradled her close. I inhaled her scent and pulled back the blanket a bit more to get a closer look. My hand found hers and I touched her tiny fingers for the first time.
Who is this little baby I am holding?
She was so familiar and yet such a stranger to me. She took my breath away.
My daughter was so dainty and beautiful, and as she grew and made the shift from infant to baby to toddler, I became even more aware of just how different we were. What a mystery she was to me. Her bouncy red curls stood in deep contrast to my thick black hair, and her fair skin and delicate features were striking against mine. She looked absolutely nothing like me, and I often wondered if our personalities would be as disconnected as our appearance seemed to be.
Those preverbal days held wonder and frustration for us. She was strong-willed, stubborn and her temper was easily triggered. At times, we connected so deeply it nearly suffocated me, and at others, I felt as though I were mothering a stranger.
Who is this little girl I am raising?
She soon began to speak, and it didn’t take long for her to begin to ask questions. Millions and millions of questions have been asked in the years since she first uttered, “Why?”
I am often overwhelmed by the questions she has for me. Frustrated by their timing. Perplexed by their volume. She is now 9 years old and the questions still come each day, sometimes at a trickle, more often like a flood. If the thought goes through her head, it comes out of her mouth. But with each new question, I am learning more about this old soul who I am raising. I’m discovering where her mind goes, and I am reading her like the open book that she is.
Who is this young lady who is now teaching me?
She is so different from me, and now in even more obvious ways. Our hair is still strikingly different. She is so incredibly beautiful and tall, and before too long, I will be shorter than she is. We are officially sharing the same shoe size, but thankfully not the same taste in footwear.
She is so much smarter than I ever was at that age. She is an impressive chess player, and I never learned to play until I was in my 20s. She has a thirst for history and an undying love for books. She is curious about everything and deeply analytical.
But as she grows and matures and becomes, so do I.
I am becoming aware of just how closely our souls are connected and tethered and of just how alike we actually are. I am more familiar with her than I am myself. I can size up her mood with a glance. I know when she is about to ask yet another question, and I can tell when she is trying to stop herself from doing so. I see her kindness and thoughtfulness. I experience firsthand her stubbornness and pleas for independence and trust. She is assertive, intelligent, thoughtful and wise beyond her years.
My daughter is my soulmate.
This revelation didn’t come to me over night. There was no magical out-of-body experience that happened when she was born. It took time for me to feel connected to her. It is the endless dialogue between us that has given me a deeper insight into this little soul who I am blessed to call my own.
Not long ago, she was holding my hand and I reached down to once again touch hers. Long gone are the tiny little fingers that once clutched mine out of instinct. She’s still my little girl whose body is growing entirely too fast for both of us. I am now holding the hand of a young lady whose hands are as big as mine.
These days, we share giggles as she tries on bras for the first time and crack up at each other’s dance moves. We bring out each other’s sense of humor just as quickly as our tempers can flare and lash out. An early learner, she has already perfected the eye roll of disdain and disgust that all girls must give their mothers from time to time.
She is still so full of questions. It is in the questions that I first began to feel deeply connected to my daughter and treasure the bond that they have created between us. She is still comfortable enough to come to me with them, and she is still young enough to believe that I have all of the answers.
Little does she know that she is the one who is teaching me.