Who are you and what have you done with my baby? You certainly can’t be my little girl, because my little girl would never get into my cupboards and scatter all my tupperware across the kitchen floor. Her favorite song definitely isn’t “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas and she would never insist on listening to it over and over again as she bounced on the bed. Her favorite food couldn’t possibly be Cheetos and I’d never let her eat something like Twinkies. She wouldn’t make a mad dash for the stairway, laughing maniacally, every time we open the front door. She wouldn’t even think about pulling all the laundry out of the dryer and throwing it on the floor. And she would never secretly make her way into the kitchen to stash fistfuls of dog food in both cheeks and down her diaper. Nope, certainly not my child.
I’m amazed at how often you do something simply because you know you shouldn’t be doing it. The thrill you get out of being naughty absolutely terrifies me. If, at ten months old, you’ll tear my magazines apart page by page, looking DIRECTLY AT ME with a devilish grin on your face the entire time, I don’t even want to think about what you’ll do at sixteen when your dad and I tell you can’t date that cute boy with a motorcycle and several facial piercings. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, you’re not allowed to date until you’re 32. You may not have big brothers to help me enforce that, but you do have older boy cousins who I believe are going to be quite protective of you.
This past month we were finally able to take you camping. By the time you get into elementary school, it’s possible that you will have already been camping more times than all the other kids combined… times three. It took you a little while to warm up to the whole playing-in-the-dirt-and-sleeping-in-a-trailer idea, but once you became a little more comfortable with your new surroundings, you simply couldn’t get enough! You are absolutely fascinated with dirt and sticks, leaves and bugs, trees and grass and… well, basically anything that can be found outside. I’m not sure if this is something that your dad and I passed down to you genetically, or if God just knew it was mandatory if you were going to be born into this family.
There’s this adorable lip-smacking thing you do when: a) you’re about to eat something that looks good or b) you’ve just eaten something that you really enjoyed. One morning, while we were camping, I set you in a flower patch hoping to get some cute pictures. Shortly after I set you down, I heard you smacking your lips and before I knew what was happening, you had bitten off the entire head of one of the flowers. That wasn’t the only time I heard your lips smacking that day. I also heard it before you ate a leaf and once again right before you shoved a twig into your mouth.
At some point during the last month, I crossed the line from caretaker and nurturer to caretaker, nurturer and disciplinarian. I’ve learned that I’m clueless when it comes to disciplining a baby. Your sister is old enough to understand why we don’t do certain things. She and I can access the situation, have a discussion and work out a solution, but I’m learning that similar discussions aren’t nearly as effective with you. For instance, there is a potted plant in our living room that you absolutely love to play in. This plant is strategically placed up on a box, behind/between two pieces of large furniture. I thought this would be enough to keep you out of it, but you have proven me wrong time and time again. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to pick you up and carry you, kicking and screaming, away from the plant, telling you firmly NOT to play there. Last week, I left the room for literally a few seconds and returned to find you wedged between the furniture, standing on your tiptoes, reaching into the pot. I could tell from the mound of soil at your feet that you had already managed to throw a few handfuls of it on the floor and I guessed from the smacking of your lips that you had also shoved some in your mouth.
Surprised, I shouted your name which startled you and you began crying. That crying quickly turned into angry screaming as I pulled you away from the plant and the tantrum continued until your fists were shaking violently and your face was beginning to turn purple. That’s when, frustrated, I said (are you ready for this?) “MORGAN, THAT’S SO UNNECESSARY!”…Unnecessary? Really?… Most parents use words like ‘no’ or ‘stop’, but apparently I use words like “unnecessary’ and “please desist” as if you should understand that there is a more appropriate reaction that could be had. I then proceeded to tell you about the importance of boundaries and taking care of the things we are fortunate enough to have (ie: not mashing potting soil into our carpet) and how even though we don’t have the nicest carpet, we need to treat it with respect. And that’s when I stopped myself mid-sentence and thought (for about the hundredth time since you were born) Oh my gosh… I’ve become my mother!
When I was growing up, my mom was always talking about respect. Respect your elders, respect the furniture, respect our animals. I kept a mental list of things my mom said or did that I solemnly vowed to never say or do and the whole “respect” thing had a secure spot near the top of that list (right under saying “Who opened the gates?” when attempting to make a left hand turn into traffic). I was certain that I was never going to become my mother. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way about me. I’m sure my mom felt the same way about her mom. In fact, I’m sure that it’s something every girl feels at some point in her life. But here’s the thing: no matter how upset my mom made me, how often she embarrassed me or how many times I disregarded her advice because I was sure I knew better, as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that she was ALWAYS RIGHT. (Weird, huh?) She actually knew what she was talking about, although it’s taken me years to see that. All those things on my list, the things I was never going to do? One by one, I’m having to check them off my list because I’ve done them. I’m slowly but surely becoming my mother and to be honest, it’s not so bad after all.
I know it’s unrealistic to hope that you’re the exception. I know there will be times that you don’t like me. I’ll upset you and embarrass you. I’ll say things that annoy you. There will be times you’ll wonder if we’re even from the same planet and I’m sure that more than once you’ll run into your bedroom, slam the door, cry into your pillow and swear that you’ll never be like me. But, it is one of my greatest hopes that someday you will find guidance in my words, comfort and love in my touch, and strength in the sight of my face, much like I have found in my own mother.
And maybe someday, perhaps as you’re scolding your own daughter or pulling your car onto a busy street, you’ll utter a few familiar words, stop yourself mid-sentence, and think of me with a smile.