My daughter entered the world on her own terms—one week early and only fifteen minutes after the nurse told me I was only dilated to 4 cm. The doctor had yet to arrive, no time for the drugs that soothe. She took her time and decided when to cry. Both her father and I were in panic mode, as were the two twenty-something male nurses. The size of their eyeballs and fright on their faces is something I’ll never quite forget.
My daughter wasn’t a crawler. No, my little girl preferred to roll around on the floor to get from point A to point B. I remember laughing and calling her my Little Rollie Pollie. She was the perfect baby who rarely cried. There was nothing like seeing her tiny hand under the bathroom door, calling for me. She loved being near me, around me, in my arms. And I cherished those moments like none other. I created a special G’night Song just for her, and would rock her in the chair, softly singing, listening to her breath on my chest.
My daughter was never one of those nightmares to get to bed—you know like the kids on those Nanny shows. Nope, not her. She’d crawl up into her yellow car bed, with all of her stuffed animals around her. I would go in and check on her at least ten times every night. I loved the way her lips would purse up when she slept, and the sweat bubbles that would form on her nose. In the morning she’d wake up and come crawling in with me. Oh how I loved those moments! My precious little girl cuddling next to her mommy—I can still feel her enveloped in my arms.
My daughter started school very young. Only three and attending a full-day of preschool. She thrived. She craved learning. I remember going to pick her up early on the magical days when I could, and just standing outside of the classroom, peering in through the window. Watching my beautiful daughter playing with her school friends. And there was nothing like the excitement in her eyes when she saw me. The way she ran toward me, with her arms stretched open, flinging herself into me. The joy she felt, just because I was there. Good times.
My daughter was always the girly-girl. She loved when I dressed her up, picked out her clothes, and did her hair in curls. There were never any arguments about her outfits—she always just wore what I chose. And she was quite the little fashion plate. I loved when I perched her up on the bathroom sink to do her hair, and when she got older she stood on a stool. Lots of great moments we had in the bathroom.
My daughter was not afraid to venture out and try new things. When it came to sports she tried soccer, basketball, gymnastics, swim, and cheer. I’ll never forget my little pig-tailed girl running up the soccer field—waving at the crowd and pointing at her pink socks, while the other kids were chasing after the ball. She was so excited about the socks! Or the basketball disaster—it simply was not the sport for her. Or the way she made it to the State Meet in gymnastics on the balance beam the first and only year she ever tried the sport. “Nah, I already went to State,” she said when asked if she wanted to do gymnastics again, and she never did. When it came to swim, I remember taking her to the pool to try out for the team. The only time she ever swam was in our community pool—or the one at her dad’s. The only formal lessons ever taken were when she was a baby. The head coach asked her to do the breaststroke, freestyle, backstroke, and something else (I don’t remember, I’m SO not a swimmer). She looked at me with the “What are these?” on her face. The coach stood at the side of the pool and mimicked each one. That’s all it took for my daughter to replicate each move and kill it in the water. She was immediately recruited for the team, but only lasted a couple weeks. Waking up at 6 am during the summer to swim was just not her cup of tea. But cheer, cheer was her thing from the get-go. From the time she was little, she lit up when in front of a crowd. She was never timid, loved to dance, tumble, and yell. I love watching her cheer, especially when she flies. The timing, skill, and fearlessness it takes to do that always simply amazes me.
My daughter has always been quite the daredevil. Her first rollercoaster ride was when she was three. She went on the Tower of Doom at a mere age 10. The adrenaline, the heights, the speed—none of it scares her. To be that fearless is something I’ve never been able to conquer. I’m in awe of her.
My daughter is the epitome of strength. She’s had a lot of tough knocks over the years—some due to things out of her control, some due to really bad decisions made on her part. But regardless of the cards that have been dealt, she always manages to hold her head high. I watch her, sometimes with my heart breaking for her—wanting to really inflict some pain on those that hurt her. I watch her, and I’ve become a stronger, better person because of her.
My daughter is headstrong and can argue like none other. There are times when I wish there were duct tape nearby, and times when I feel like the opposing attorney. I don’t know what career path my daughter will take, but holy good god! If she’s a lawyer, good luck to the other side…
My daughter turned sixteen this month. I look at her, and at my many, many photo albums, and I cannot help but get all misty-eyed. My little Rissa Roo is growing up. She no longer looks like the little girl, with the flat chest and long pig-tails. She no longer comes running to me in excitement when I pick her up from any place. No, much the contrary. These days I’m lucky to get the customary “Good-bye, love you” as she heads into wherever it is that she is going. School has become something to survive and finish. Teachers are boring, she learns NOTHING, and the only things that happen seem to be during off-periods and lunch. Bedtime has become the “Turn off the TV, it’s late! You have school in the morning!” Cheer is her “life” and there’s no need to try anything other than it (and truth be told, there’d be no time to…). And unless we are out shopping and I pick something out for her to try on, there’s no way she’d let me choose her outfits. Not going to happen.
My daughter is now sixteen. I love the way she still wants me to French braid her hair—except there’s no counters or stools to prop her up on. No, instead she has to sit lower than me now—oh how my baby has grown! I love the times when she comes up to me and pulls me into a hug or when I do to her she doesn’t pull away. I love the way she still wants her back scratched, just like when she was little. I love the way she still needs and wants me to help her with her homework—especially the way we take turns reading her books out loud. I love how strong she is, and I love how she’s slowly learning that she is wrong some of the time. I love the passion she possesses with her cheerleading. I love the gentleness she uses when she’s babysitting little kids. I love her tell-it-like-it-is attitude—gee, I wonder where she gets that from? I love seeing bits of me in her, sometimes in her walk, sometimes in her gumption, sometimes there’s no pin-pointing it, it’s just there. I love the way she can light up a room. I love the way she loves animals, always ready to defend and protect. I love how nervous she is behind the wheel of the car, telling me “Don’t worry mom, I’ll never speed.”
Bottom line, I love my little girl. I cannot believe she’s sixteen. It feels like just yesterday when she entered the world on her own terms.
Happy 16th Birthday, Marissa! I’m so proud of the young woman you are. And feel very lucky and blessed to be your mom.
Meredith is a mom, sister, wife, friend, teacher, critic, Starbucks junkie, writer, coach, and a million other things. She enjoys writing about the good, scary, funny, sad, exciting and all those other truths that too many people are afraid to write about. You can find her blog at http://merelovesthepack.blogspot.com or on Twitter: @FmTheSidelines.