“Mommy, I wish I was you.”
My 4-year-old says this to me a lot. She stares at me longingly and says it when she loves my shoes or my nail polish, or wants my sparkly necklace, or because she’s in awe of my ability to tell other people what to do. It’s sweet and cute, and so lovingly flattering, but it crushes me inside. What she doesn’t understand is that more than anything, I wish I was her.
She is stubborn and fierce. She never takes no for an answer. (One of many traits that will serve her well in life but makes parenting her an incredible daily challenge.) She won’t let anyone tell her she can’t or that she isn’t good enough or big enough. She is unapologetically herself. She sings loudly on the train because she is proud that she knows all the words and wants to show off. She is confident and smart, and keenly observes and tries to process the world around her. She wants what she wants and won’t settle. (Again: daily challenge.)
I watch her mimic the way I talk, the things I say, the way I handle her brother or stroke her cheek. She wants a bag that looks like mine, and wants to push a stroller the way I do. It breaks my heart because I don’t want her to be me. Sure, I yell and occasionally people listen, and I do have some really great shoes, but I’ve lost so much of that fearlessness and spark. I’m always worried about something. I don’t have time. I don’t have energy. I have resentments. I let too many things stop me. I settled for a mediocre job and a mediocre relationship.
I wish I never took no for an answer. I don’t know that I would’ve screamed and chased older kids who took my ball like she did, instead of standing still and crying. She is mighty, strong, and spirited. She finds joy in the silliest things.
And maybe I even used to be her. It’s hard to remember anymore. This girl who refuses to wear pajamas, who thinks she’s one of the teachers in her class, who loves Daniel Tiger more than life — she is my hero. This pipsqueak who taught herself to count to 100 so her older brother couldn’t say he was better than her, this girl who is proud of her accomplishments, this girl who listens to her body when she’s full, she is who I want to be when I grow up.
I hope that she never loses this fire, and that nothing and no one will take it away from her. I hope that throughout life, through mean girls, and hard tests, and unpredictable boys, and new and scary challenges, I hope she stays true to who she is and knows her self worth. It’s not easy.
She makes bedtime each night an endless excruciating negotiation process, but when she finally settles down after pages of stickers, and piles of books, and cups of water, and too many stuffed animals to count, I know she’s going to change the world.
Baby girl, I wish I was you.