Last night, I was awake at three. Still awake at four.
It doesn’t happen very often, and I don’t freak out when it does. My husband’s been out of town this week, so I flipped on the light and started reading, telling myself I’d figure out a way to take a nap later if my day got too long.
When the alarm went off, I hit snooze, and then I hit it again. By the time I wandered into the kitchen, Lauren was already up. But her bedroom door was closed. That’s new, I thought.
I could hear early Michael Jackson as I flipped on the kettle for tea and turned the kitchen radio to NPR. Lauren has an eclectic playlist for a kid her age.
She’s asserting her independence, I realized, looking at her closed door. Although I knew this day was coming, it made me sad. I know that’s what she’s supposed to be doing, and I’m supposed to be letting her do it, unfurling the leash a little bit at a time. It’s my job to help her get ready to leave, to find her own way in the world without the oversight of her mom.
The hardest part about cancer is wondering if that day is going to come too soon.
I try not to let my mind go there, to tamp down all the what-ifs that aren’t productive.
Eventually, Lauren emerged from her room fully dressed, looking every inch a teenager. While we had breakfast, I quizzed her on her history study guide and then drove her to school wearing a sweatshirt over my pajama top.
She’s a straight-A student involved in sports, drama, singing, and scouts. Like her dad, she’s curious about everything. It’s one of my favorite qualities about both of them; a quality that can drive me crazy sometimes but never fails to inspire.
From the very beginning, Lauren’s always been that way, enthusiastic and fearless. “Your daughter doesn’t walk anywhere,” Coach McQuaid told Gary and me once after T-ball practice when she was little. “She runs, she hops, and she dances, but she never walks.”
Mrs. Goss, her kindergarten teacher, told us the same thing. “All kids are high energy,” she said, “but Lauren’s on octane.”
“Great,” my husband replied with sarcasm, “the most energetic kid born to the oldest parents.”
Of course, I want to see what she does with all that energy. I want to witness where life takes her.
But last week, at my routine cancer screening, the doctor found something she didn’t like. “It’s probably just scar tissue, but we’re going to keep an eye on it.”
Back when I was a kid, before my six siblings and I broke our family’s black-and-white TV in a foolishly located water balloon fight, I remember watching “The Brady Bunch” after school. When Marsha got hit in the face with the football, landing her a broken nose just before her big school dance, she couldn’t stop the scene from replaying in her head.
Sort of like my doctor’s words. “It’s probably just scar tissue,” her voice reverberates.
But if it isn’t …
So, while it makes me sad that Lauren’s door was closed this morning, that she got ready for school without consulting me about her glorious hair and its spectacular array of accessories, in some ways it makes me happy. Because I need for her to navigate the world with confidence. Without me.
Yes, I want to experience the exquisite pleasure of motherhood for as long as I can. Grandmotherhood even.
But as Marsha Brady taught me back before that ill-advised water balloon fight, everyone gets hit in the head now and then with a football. But in the end, everything works out OK.
Just as I know it will for Lauren. And for me, too.
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