The last thing I thought I'd encounter in the frothy, Abba-inspired film "Mamma Mia!" was a tear-inducing ballad about a mother and daughter. Near the end of the movie, Meryl Streep sings about the bittersweet moments of watching her daughter grow up and away from her: "Do I really see what's in her mind? Each time I think I'm close to knowing she keeps on growing, slipping through my fingers all the time."
I can relate.
My oldest daughter is only 9 but I've got the feeling I don't really have a clue what goes on inside her increasingly mature little head. Already I catch expressions in her eyes that reflect Mom as "old" and somewhat embarrassing. One recent night, for example, my daughter was listening to a "High School Musical" CD and I started belting out the tunes right along with Zac Efron. The girl left her room in complete disgust and refused to return until I stopped singing. (OK, I'm a really bad singer, but still.) The bottom line was that if Mom knew the lyrics, it just wasn't cool anymore.
I know my oldest still loves me and needs me, but as she grows, it's clear she doesn't need me as much. She walks to school by herself, picks out her own clothes, sets her alarm clock at night and does her homework on her own. She has a best friend and the two often stop talking when I walk into the room. They have secrets, these two, usually involving all the contents of my spice cabinet or things on perilously high shelves in the basement. But who knows what else?
I'm happy that my daughter is becoming confident and independent, don't get me wrong-especially because she has severe nut allergies and I've had to be more cautious with her than I might have had to be otherwise. Her growing maturity is a sign I'm doing an OK job as a mother and for that, I'm grateful. I just didn't know she'd grow up so fast or find me occasionally embarrassing so soon. She's only 9. Couldn't I have had just a few more years of blind adoration?
As an exhausted mother of a baby and a preschooler, I used to dream of the days when my girls would be more independent. Surrounded by the chaos of early motherhood, I used to envision a world with no more diapers, no more putting small objects into their mouths, no more public tantrums. We'd all have more sleep, more fun and less Crayola marks on the walls. Life would be grand!
And many days it is.
But the notion that Mom is the center of my daughters' worlds is gone forever. True, they've been out of diapers for years now, they can brush their own teeth, and they even let us sleep on the weekends (sometimes). Most days I'm very thankful for this. Plus, I definitely don't miss Barney, extreme sleep deprivation or the constant vigilance required to prevent babies and toddlers from falling out of shopping carts and running into busy streets.
But I do miss being able to ask them anything and having them tell me everything that's on their minds. In a lot of ways these girls are slipping through my fingers, and it's never going to be quite the same again. All I can do is enjoy every minute I have with them-Zac Efron and all.
Jennifer Kales is a freelance writer and mother of two who lives with her family in La Grange Park. She is the author of The Nut-Free Mom Blog, www.nut-freemom.blogspot.com .