Once in a great while - usually when I am distracted by something mundane like boiling noodles or sifting through the junk mail - I will glance over at Cowgirl and in a flash see the young woman she is slowly drifting towards becoming.
It is a bit disconcerting but also thrilling. Kinda like coming upon a wild animal and experiencing that frisson of awe and instinctual fear. The image jarring in that the memory of her needy, wispy-haired, mouth-gaping-in-perpetual-want, baby bird self is still very vivid for me.
But here is the evidence of my girl slowly orbiting away from me. The separation not yet visible, but imminent.
Her being is as close to me as my racing pulse; at the same time she baffles, excites, delights and frustrates me to no end.
I was talking with a friend I had not seen in a long while. This friend is someone I view as a mentor when it comes to mothering. A professional and a professor, she has a resumé long with achievement yet her focus has always clearly been centered upon her family. So I was surprised by her reaction when I relating to her my struggle to determine what it is I wish to cultivate within my life. I was telling her how I admire people like Julia Child (did I throw you with that one?) who so passionately devote themselves to something they believe in and how I have been seeking my whole life to find that one thing - my thing - for myself. I enjoy too many things I explained to her and I feel the pull to go deeply into something and see where it takes me rather that continue to graze upon the surface of my life.
The gist of my friend's response was "You are a mother and that occupies your time ... isn't your child your thing?" For a split second I could feel the relief of slipping into that belief. To heap upon tiny shoulders the responsibility for my meaning and purpose. It is a tightrope walk - to balance upon a thin wire of being totally present for and focused upon my child while maintaining our separate identities, our separate needs. I do not want to make my child a vessel for my longings and aspirations. I do not want her to believe she is to fulfill the dreams I was too fearful to pursue.
I want her to be her own person and to be able to hear, trust and follow the urgings of her own heart, her own mind. And as painful as it feels to me now as I witness these first forays into independence, I want her to slip into a life of her own choosing free of any guilt over pleasing or completing me.
I tried explaining this to my friend. I told her if nothing else, I want my daughter to see me as a complete person empowered by knowing it is within my ability and my right to seek that which brings me joy and fulfillment. When she is in her adult life - a race car driver or a paleontologist as of this week - I want Cowgirl to think of her old mother as an interesting if somewhat eccentric person.
And perhaps she is witnessing clues to my future self for her school essays about our family always read "My mother likes to paint. I like her paintings."
And so we both grow. A thrilling if somewhat dangerous and uncertain process. May we always hold space for the other to be who they dare to be.