Growing Up

Karen Peterson essays

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It took me a few years to realize why it bothered me. It started when my daughter at the age of 13 stood in the kitchen looking right at me with a big look-what-I-discovered grin. She walked up next to me and compared her height to mine with her hand to show she was now taller than me. I checked to see if she had shoes on before I let her have her victory.

I tried to make light of this new development so she would forget about it but that didn’t happen. Every quarter inch she went up was celebrated by her as another triumph. She even put a mark on her growth chart showing my height in comparison to hers. “I’m still the boss,” I said looking at her chart.

“Okay Hobbit mom,” she said.

One afternoon she decided to see how much authority she could get out of being taller when I asked her to wash the dishes. “I’m busy,” she said. I stood in front of her with my hands on my hips.

She looked down at me full of adolescent pride. I looked at her like my baby and she looked at me as this angry little dwarf. I told myself I’m still the parent. I can’t diminish my responsibilities to guide her in a productive direction and that included helping with the dishes.

I reminded her about how long her iPod would stay in my possession if she continued to protest. The challenge to authority didn’t really bother me. I enjoy a good debate. I try to teach my daughter to stand up for what she believes in and I allow her to practice on issues such as washing the dishes. A legitimate rebuttal like a broken arm might be considered.  

I didn’t analyze my feelings about this new dynamic until she was 14. At a cousin’s wedding reception, I felt a rush of happiness when a pair of six inch boots that killed my feet made us almost equal in height. Why would torturing my feet make me happy? Something deeper must be going on I thought looking at her as she said, “You can’t wear them forever.”
I watched her as she walked around at the reception. I thought her hair looked nice pulled away from her face and curled. I didn’t help her with that style. Then it hit me. I didn’t help her do her hair and she looked beautiful. She didn’t even get the brush stuck in her hair this time. She didn’t need me as much anymore. I felt an ache in the pit of my stomach.

The thought of my baby becoming an adult was making it hard to breath. I wanted to cry but I was standing at a wedding reception. I loved this new independent person but I missed the little version and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I did the only thing I could think to do. I began a quest to cuddle her as much as possible. “Your head is as big as your entire body used to be,” I said giving her a cheek hug in the kitchen the next morning.

“Mom, you’re so weird,” she said.

Instead of her head on my shoulder, I created this new cheek ritual where we pressed our cheeks together to create a hug. She has to bend down slightly for it to work. I could reverse the situation and put my head on her shoulder but that is a strange reminder of what I’m trying to avoid.

“You’ll always be my baby,” I said with our cheeks together.
“Okay,” she agreed.

“Even if you get six feet tall,” I said.

About the Author

Karen Peterson

Karen Peterson is a freelance writer in St. Ignatius, Montana. She works among the sometimes quiet sounds of her three children.

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