September 13 10

My daughter spent the late hours of September 11th, 2010 down at ground zero in New York City. I am so glad she was there. It was coincidence, really, that her first big-girl trip to spend a few days with my sister and her first time in NYC happened to fall out on 9/11. But, you see, my baby girl is 9.5, which, if you are playing the math at home, means that she was just sixth months old when her mommy was watching Regis and Kelly when she heard the news of the twin towers being hit. Emily was so wee at the time; just a little ball of mush. She had no clue what was happening that day, other than the fact that her mommy was glued to the tv all day and *may* have forgotten to feed her some rice cereal. But now, nine years later, Emily understands. She understands more than the average fourth grader. And even though it’s killing me that she is away from me, even for just three days, there’s nowhere else I’d rather her be this week.

How is it, though, that I’m the mother of a child that I can send to go do grown-up things in a grown-up city with her grown-up aunt?

It’s funny, though, how things have changed. I mean, my parents divorced when I was young, and I don’t remember a time when my sister and I weren’t flying ALONE on the short-haul flight between Milwaukee and Atlanta. And it was no big deal. Back when traveling was easy and we didn’t have to take off our shoes to go through security and your liquids didn’t have to fit neatly into 3.4oz containers. Back when I wore giant purple bows and giant braces. (collective OY)

Traveling alone was nothing more than slapping some Delta wings on me and giving me a free coke and some peanuts.

It’s amazing how the world has changed.

I remember, as a kid of no more than Emily’s age, leaving my mom’s house on my bike (without a helmet, of course) and not returning until well after dark. And that was totally normal. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m probably one of the least helicopter-y of the moms I know, and I’m still, all, well, you can walk across the street to get the mail, but I am still going to watch you from the porch and I want you to turn around and wave at me once you’ve looked both ways no less than three times and gotten safely to the other side of the street. And even then I kind of feel uneasy.

But it’s weird. It’s not that I worry for their immediate physical safety. I KNOW she’s fine to go and get the mail. And I KNOW she’s fine to go and spend time with my sister in New York. And I even know she’s fine to be left alone for 8 minutes while I drive Josh over to a friend’s house.

It’s more this.

With every single day that passes, my baby bird is growing stronger wings. And sooner rather than later she will no longer need ME. She will grow up and be independent. In just over two years from now, my daughter will legally be able to babysit other peoples’ children. This independence thing scares me. As much as I want her (and her brother and sister after her) to spread her wings and learn to fly (and ohmigod, I am overusing this metaphor) and be this responsible person in her own right, I don’t want her to not need me.

Some days, I just want her to be that little six-month-old baby who needs me to feed her her next meal of rice cereal.

Not that almost-teenager who is out seeing West Side Story on Broadway and shopping at Macy’s.

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  1. she did have a coke… but now, god forbid an airline should serve something simple like a pretzel of peanut, it came with ‘corn chips with flax’. 9 year olds LOVE flax. Right?

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    Comment by Gav on September 13, 2010
  2. ((hugs))

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    Comment by Heather on September 13, 2010
  3. I am still grappling with the idea that my kids don’t need me to map out their moves, and, aside from a constant need to have me remind them to brush their teeth, every day, twice a day, can reasonably take care of themselves for periods of time if necessary. I think I’m delayed in this thought because, up until I was 26, every time I left my Mom’s house to go back to my own place, Mom would make me call her and let the phone ring three times, then hang up as our signal that I’d made it safely.

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    Comment by fadkog on September 13, 2010
  4. I will someday have to do my mother’s laundry. I will have to cook for her and make sure that her basic needs are covered. In the meantime, despite living as a self-sufficient adult, I still crave going home, having ma do my laundry, make me breakfast, play with my hair and even nag me about the size of my ass.
    I am 38. There is no shame in my game!

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    Comment by Rae Ann on September 13, 2010
  5. You can at least rest well at night knowing that you instilled in her great taste in musical theatre.

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    Comment by MonsteRawr on September 13, 2010
  6. My girls do the trans-Atlantic flights alone. They are old pros by now. I guess we are lucky to live somewhere where the girls can go out on their own, ride the bus by themselves. It is safe here, and it is so good for their self esteem. But I can’t imagine letting them do it in the US. Or at least in any city I have ever lived in there.

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    Comment by LL on September 13, 2010
  7. Talk about kids growing wings…this 10-month-old walking business has me sensing only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to kids and their independence. You’re such a good mom, Ali. Your kids will forever be better people because of the independence you offer them.

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    Comment by Amy on September 13, 2010
  8. Ah, but she will always need you. Just like I’m (almost) 33 and still need my mommy sometimes. And you guys already have an amazing relationship, so it will only get better. She’ll need you as a mom and as a friend.

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    Comment by Kristabella on September 13, 2010
  9. You were this independent when you were four!

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    Comment by Doris on September 13, 2010
  10. OK. I had braces -just like you- and traveled with my sister (sans parentals) to Europe, twice. And my kid, who is also a 9.5 going on 19.5 is growing into an amazing person who needs me less and less.
    But, you are a loving mama. Chances are, you’ll always be the first one she looks for when she ‘needs’ someone.
    ~And wow… I hope she has a blast in NYC.

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    Comment by bella on September 13, 2010
  11. I really feel like we grew up in the heyday of childhood- not totally antiquated, but not so much advancement that so much scary can happen.

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    Comment by slynnro on September 13, 2010
  12. Sigh.

    That’s all I have, Ali. A big, fat, SIGH.

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    Comment by Angella on September 13, 2010
  13. I hear you, my dear. Just last week, my kids walked home for lunch and walked right back to school afterward. All by themselves. For the first time. Without me. They seemed so grown up. sigh.

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    Comment by Nenette on September 14, 2010
  14. i know. my bro and i flew alone TX-CA as kids. now, i can’t even deal with the fact that my daughter is a 2nd grader.

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    Comment by Wendy on September 15, 2010
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