Six and a half years into this gig, and the moment this controlling mama has been dreading all along has come…
My baby girl (because really, she is still a baby right??), has discovered the beauty of being self-reliant. And as somewhat expected, this mama has discovered just how hard it is to relinquish some of that hard-earned control I have had over her during her short life so far. I mean, come on, 9 months of pregnancy, 12 hours of labor, and countless toddler tantrums should fetch me some sort of control right??
Yes, my first born has given me plenty of grief over plenty of things, but until very recently, she has never grumbled a bit at letting me choose her wardrobe, select which hair-do would be best for the day’s activities, and even paint her tiny little nails whichever color my heart desired. Though never much of a doll-girl myself, and about as far as you can get from a “Toddlers and Tiaras” stage mom, I had quickly learned to appreciate how fun it was to play stylist with my little lady. As I understand it now, after talking with lots of other girl-mamas, I didn’t realize how lucky I was that my reign had lasted as long as it had….
As we speak, my daughter’s fingers are painted a lovely shade of “Wicked Witch of The West” green. And no, I don’t mean her fingernails….well, in fairness, there is SOME paint on her nails. The remainder is all over her knuckles, her palms, and halfway up her wrists. You see, the other night, she confidently stated, “Mom, I think I am ready to paint my own nails tonight.” I giggled a little and looked down into her solemn eyes and realized that she was most certainly not joking. She was serious. Very serious.
I tried in vain to change her mind….I mean, Sunday night is the night that *I* paint *her* nails…..had been since she was 2 (not that I have a routine or anything). Surely she wouldn’t be ready to paint her own nails until she turned 18, right? That was the schedule that I was planning on. That was the plan.
I hemmed and I hawed and I hoped that she would get distracted and I would be able to paint her nails in some silent, ninja-like fashion, but to no avail. She was ready….and she was already shaking the bottle of the lovely green nail polish. What choice did I have but to reluctantly agree to let her give it a try? Perhaps this was some sort of right of passage in the 1st grade world….a milestone equivalent to that of shaving your legs for the first time…..or getting that first training bra……Oh Lord……I. Can’t. Even.
And so, the nail painting commenced. She very carefully sat herself down on the same white step-stool she had been sitting on every Sunday night after bathtime, but this time, SHE was holding the polish bottle. She had a look of determination (with a hint of trepidation) in her eye equivalent to that of someone getting ready to take that first step of a marathon (or what I imagine that looks like anyway). And as she worked her way through her first tiny foot, brush strokes going in every which way, cuticles covered in paint, I noticed her tongue sticking out from between her teeth in concentration…..just like I do……and I noticed that she was holding her breath unintentionally as she focused with everything she had…..just like I do.
When she finished that first set of tiny piggies, she looked at me with pride so intense, I could feel it in my soul…..this was a WIN for her, and she wasn’t about to stop now. 5 nails down…..15 to go.
I fought my instincts to “help” and I literally sat on my hands and bit my tongue….not joking….and let her go. She didn’t spill the polish. She didn’t decide to eat it. She didn’t even decide to paint the bathroom cabinets. She just painted her nails…..and grew up just a little bit more.
She went to school the next day and even before I got my daily hug and kiss at her classroom door, she was telling all of her friends how she had painted her OWN nails the night before. They all oohed and ahhhed….and not one of those sweet girls commented on the green paint on her knuckles. They appreciated her efforts. They related to her triumph.
As I knelt down and received my anticipated parting hug and kiss, I asked her if I could still paint her nails every once in a while……and she said yes……but only if she got to paint mine as a trade……
Baby steps mama…..baby steps.
Photo Credit: Darby Simon