Eve stayed up later than usual last night. After I went upstairs to kiss her goodnight, I came back down to the family room, settled on the couch and began my nightly ritual of scanning the on-screen guide to see if there was anything on TV that I could stand to watch.
Just as I was pressing the power button, I heard the stairs squeak and Eve’s head peered around the corner. She sat on the opposite end of the couch from me and looked all around my face, avoiding my eyes. At first I thought she was afraid of getting in trouble for coming back downstairs, but it didn’t take me long to figure out what was really going on.
It was the last night she would ever be twelve.
The last night before becoming a teenager.
There was no going back.
Eve is generally fairly stoic, at least when it comes to uncomfortable emotion. She is perfectly happy to show her support or enthusiasm for something and feels free to express her excitement in most every situation. What she doesn’t do easily is talk about things that bother her or cry in front of anyone.
She talked a little about something that made her mad that day and said she wished I didn’t just assume I knew how she would react. And then it came,
“…just because I’m older. Just because I’m a teenager now, doesn’t mean I don’t care about that stuff anymore.”
I put my hand on the blanket beside me, welcoming her to come sit with me.
“Why?” It was more wary than questioning.
“Because I want to give you a hug. I’m sorry you are unhappy and I will do my best to ask you for your input each and every time, no matter what your age from now on.”
She booted the cat off the couch and snuggled into my side, her hip in the curve of my waist, her head tucked into the side of my neck.
And I told her a story. About being pregnant with her and knowing that I had all the answers. I decided that my kid wasn’t going to be a “binky baby,” that she would be exclusively breastfed and that she would always, always sleep in her own bed. And I knew with certainty that if I just started out this way and never wavered, it would be a piece of cake.
Turns out cake doesn’t agree with me (unless it’s gluten free).
By day 3, I was tired of spending my days with my pinky finger stuck in her mouth as she sucked to self-soothe. I picked the shortest route to Target and bought a dozen pacifiers, stuck one in each car and in every room of the house, and tethered one to the frontpack I carried her in. Finally, peace and a non-soggy finger!
Eve and I were the world’s worst breastfeeding duo. I had inverted nipples and enough milk to feed a small African country and she had a gag reflex that rivaled any I’ve ever seen. She was starving, I was bleeding and pumping off three or more ounces every couple of hours just to get her to latch on. It was miserable. We did finally figure it out, but it took six weeks for me to feel comfortable leaving the house when I thought I might have to nurse her in public because it was such an intricate dance.
And the sleeping. Well, that was the hardest part. On paper, it sounded like the right thing to do. We had a bassinet in our room for her, but it was winter and she was cold in there. Plus, I carried her around all day long in the front pack, so she was used to being nestled up right against a human while she slept. And the thing is, I loved it. I loved going through my day sniffing her soft downy head and taking every opportunity to reach down and stroke her chubby little cheek.
We would put her to bed in her bassinet and within 30 minutes she would howl. I knew that I would be feeding her at least twice in the night anyway, and it was so much easier to bring her back to my bed, nurse her and fall asleep than it was to finish feeding her and get out of bed to put her back. And even back then, Bubba traveled a lot for work, so having her next to me in bed was lovely and comforting.
Eve was never a snuggler. Bubba’s dad was frustrated that she wouldn’t just climb into his lap for a story as a toddler. She wanted to sit next to him and turn the pages, but not on him. She didn’t like other people besides Bubba and me picking her up, even as an infant. She gave great hugs, but didn’t cuddle like some kids. But when we were asleep, she would curl right into me for a little while and sigh. It was absolute Heaven.
As I look at her now, turning 13 today, I know she is filled with excitement and trepidation. I know she can’t wait to have some of the trappings of teenager-dom, but she is feeling a little melancholy about growing up. I am, too. I am so proud of her and the person she is becoming and I miss rolling over and seeing her dark hair splayed out across the pillow on the other side of the bed. I feel so lucky that she sat with me on the couch last night and let me play with her hair and tell her a story of how much I cherish the sweet times we had together.
Happy birthday, my girl! You are my treasure.