Sometimes, in our most painless, pleasant moments, I flash-forward to a time when a teenage version of you will inevitably hate my guts. It invades your toddler sweetness like a storm rolling in over waveless waters.
My parent-friends tell me that a whole lotta attitude is actually just around the corner, but I’m not talking about the indignant cries of “NO!” and the terrible-two temper tantrums. I’m talking about theveryinstant you turn thirteen and become a sassy pants and I will want to rip that look right off your snippy little face. I was a teenage girl once, too. I know how it goes.
So eleven years from now, you can just PAUSE mid-eye-roll, madam, because there are a few things I’d like you to remember in that moment. You should remember that I have pulled boogers out of your nose so globby and thick that all your teenage boyfriends would flee in terror if they knew (but you could breathe again, so you know what? You’re welcome). I have scrubbed corn-poop from your face – oh, and from your crib. And from the bathtub. And from the walls.
You have dripped from every orifice all over my skin and hair and clothes. You are not that cool. Remember that when you storm away in a huff and slam the door to your bedroom.
While you’re at it, you should also go ahead and remember the pregnancy, okay? For thirty-seven weeks, I abstained from sushi, blue cheese, tuna, deli meat, cookie dough, coffee, and wine. WINE, little girl! You put me through an intense drug-free labor so excruciating that my body went into an actual state of shock. You gave me stitches and floppy stomach skin and pancake boobs in exchange for a year of breastfeeding. You forced me awake every three hours for the first eight months of your life. Remember that.
But while we’re paused in eye-roll freeze-frame, there are a few things I hope I will remember, too.
I want to remember the sweet smell of your feather hair on the day you were born, and the wail of your newborn cry that sounded incessantly until they placed you on my chest.
You knew me.
I want to remember how peaceful it was at three in the morning, rocking your squishy noodle-body while you nursed, while you examined my face with a sense of curiosity and wonder and safety. I want to remember the delicious pudge of your baby thighs, your velvet-gummed toothless smile, the way I used to be able to fix everything with just a kiss.
When you are yelling that I’ve ruined your life, I hope I can see these days instead. I hope I can picture all the times you beg me to sing “Wheel Bus Go Roun’ and Roun’!”, and the way you try to do everything just like me: brushing your teeth, combing your hair, crossing your legs, putting on makeup. You are my most honest mirror.
I want to remember how, each night, just before I tuck you into your crib, you swing your legs off my hip and into my arms and command in a whisper, “Hol’ me like a baby.”
I want to remember how thrilled you are to go shopping with your parents – “We go to mall! Costco! Grocery store! I SO EXCITED!” – and how you always laugh hysterically when I make my silly face and dance around the kitchen. You want to be independent, but you reach for my hand when we walk down the stairs. Sometimes you still cry and cling to my leg if I try to leave the room. When you’re a teenager, I hope I can remember that a long time ago, you wanted my company. I hope I can remember how it felt when you needed me.
I want to remember the words “I love you, Mommy,” exactly the way you say them right now in your tiny voice. I want to remember your eyes, just like this, so earnest and innocent and trusting. And I especially want to remember the way you snuggle beside me on the couch (“Cuddle in, Mommy! Cuddle in!”) and rest your miniature hand on my leg, just to remind yourself that I’m nearby.
For a while, a decade from now, we’ll probably have some pretty rough years. But those will likely pass as quickly as this childhood, and one day I will blink and you might have a not-yet-sassy daughter of your own.
By then, we will both remember that there was always, always love. By then, maybe we’ll be able to laugh at all the eye-rolling and the door-slamming. Hopefully you’ll want to be around me again. Because for now, I am helping you snap into your footed jammies and changing your Cookie Monster diapers and reading “Pete the Cat” for the two hundredth time, because these are the things I will miss.
I will love you even then.