When they handed her to me, pink and bundled, she was perfection personified. Born at full-term yet still only weighing five pounds, my daughter was small but mighty. She was a fighter, this pink bundle, having survived a head-on car accident while I was pregnant with her. Every day after the accident, I worried that she’d suffered trauma or damage to her tiny system. But when the doctors declared her healthy on that beautiful September day, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d almost ruined her before she even got here.
In the days after her birth, I watched her closely. I admired her perfect alabaster skin, unmarred by worry lines and crow’s feet. Her tiny fingernails, never sullied by nail polish, were so small that I could barely cut them with the clippers. Her jet black hair, sans styling products and chemical dyes, gently wisped at her sleeping face. She seemed untouched, unfazed, and unburdened. She was beautiful and wasn’t aware that people saw her so.
Every time I looked at my sweet baby girl, I was overcome with the enormity of what lay ahead for her. All of my experiences as a woman thus far were in store for her, and I almost couldn’t bear it. The thought of her having her first encounter with a mean girl almost brought me to my knees. I wondered when she’d look in the mirror and wish her appearance were different. When would a boy kiss her and then break her heart? As she lay sleeping, I wondered where she’d go to college, what profession she’d choose, and if she’d one day want to have children of her own. So much promise lay in that tiny bassinet, and it was overwhelming.
Over the years, I’ve mothered her through all of the little girl problems that came her way: catty girls on the playground, classroom struggles, and sibling rivalries. On the day her eyes looked back at me from behind her new glasses and she said, “Will the kids make fun of me?” I smiled ruefully and assured her that she was spunky and cute with her new specs. But I knew it was already starting for her, that seemingly inevitable march toward self-doubt and insecurity. In each of those instances, she was a little girl looking to her mother to show her the way.
Lately, I’ve found myself staring at her in the same way I did when she was a newborn. She’s changing before my eyes, and I’m not ready. Her little girl body is becoming more defined, and if I’m being honest, hairier. She’s temperamental and moody. She cries when I look at her sideways, and all signs are pointing to the impending arrival of that dreaded monthly visitor. I can’t bring myself to accept that she’s growing up—again.
There are quiet moments when the urge to tell her what’s going to happen to her body in the next few years almost becomes too much to keep inside. I have gently explained the need-to-know basics in hopes of thwarting a panicked bathroom discovery, but beyond that, I find myself going silent. I want to protect her, shelter her from the truth for just a little bit longer.
I want her to play with her dolls and continue to create fantastical worlds in her head for a tiny bit longer. I don’t want to clutter her Harry Potter-obsessed head with the specifics of childbirth and sexual intercourse. I want her to be friends with the boys in her class and not feel self-conscious because I’ve explained the birds and the bees. I watch her play, so different from that tiny pink bundle yet very much the same. Innocent and unknowing, this fleeting time is rapidly coming to a close, slipping through my hands like sand.
I’m not ready for my daughter to grow into a woman. Not yet. Not so soon.
There will come a time, shortly, I know, where my job as a mother will require me to help her join our woman club gracefully and without fear. I will have to find the strength to explain that a boy who isn’t interested in making sure she has an orgasm is not a boy with whom she should waste her time. I will have to have practical discussions about tampon insertion, yeast infections, and unimaginable boob soreness during that time of the month. And I will have to talk to her about protecting herself and about the choices she’s been granted by law.
All are big girl discussions that my little girl isn’t ready to have, and neither am I.
For now, I will continue to quietly marvel and study this beautiful creature sitting next to me, texting silly pictures to her best friend. And when I lean over and fold her in my arms in a hug that feels like a protective wall, if she asks me why I’m holding on so tightly, I will simply say, “Because I know what’s coming.”