My daughter will be seven in just a few weeks. We spent an hour after dinner tonight driving around the neighborhood, dropping off invitations to her girlfriends for her Birthday/Doll Tea Party. At seven, I was about as girlie as Dennis the Menace, but Emma is the real deal: dress-up clothes, makeup (the cheap, play kind that floats away on a breeze within moments of being applied), hugs and kisses to all of her friends each time she sees them, and a love of anything that purrs, giggles, or sparkles.
Since she was two years old and threw across the room the shoes I was trying to put on her--and then pointed to the ones she wanted to wear--I have had a hard time relating to Emma. I have loved her, clothed her, fed her, laughed with her, cried with her, but rarely related to her.
On one particular visit to my mother's house, Mom chastised me for how unfairly I treated Emma. She said I was too hard on her--harder than I was on the boys. I said, "But you just don't know, Mom. She's never satisfied. Ever. I can spend 24 hours with her and she'll cry because I didn't come up with another hour in the day. I can buy her a new spring wardrobe and she'll complain I didn't buy her that tube of Disney Princesses toothpaste as well. I can let her stay up to watch a movie on Friday and she'll argue on Saturday that she wishes I'd let her watch something else instead." Mom just shook her head: "I feel bad for her is all."
I crawled into bed next to Emma that night and cried, wondering if Mom was right. I was afraid I was blowing my chance to be close to the only daughter I will ever have.
And then when morning came, Emma pushed and I reacted.
And so it's gone for several years.
Yet recently, really since having moved here to Chicago and seen her blossom in all of these new friendships she has formed, I've come to adore her more than ever because I'm looking at her differently. I'm not trying to relate to her anymore or expecting to see myself in her at any point. And in observing this little wonder of mine without worrying about understanding her, I can simply be in awe of her, amazed by how much joy she manages to contain without completely bursting at the seams. I watch her skip out the door to school and race back in afterward, all apple-faced and smiling, and I literally hope to God I can recall those moments for the rest of my life.
These last few days with a child recovering too slowly from a surgery that has so far caused more pain than it's eradicated, I have needed little Emma's joy more than I realized I ever would.
And right now, I'm the one who could use another hour tacked onto the 24 I've been given. In this, at least--in the very real craving I have for her and for all of my children--I'll never be satisfied either. So perhaps Emma and I can, after all, relate to each other a bit.