The Quiet Joy of Stealth Snuggling My Pre-Teen

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She's eleven, almost twelve.

Bedtime is no longer made up of begging for one more half hour of TV, then one more reading of her favorite book, or one more singing of "Morningtown Train" as we lay side-by-side and rock with the verses.

Instead, we've evolved (devolved?) to "Put that phone away now," and, "You can't be doing your nails, it's bedtime," and, "I'm turning the light off. I mean it!"

The upside of your kid getting older is that you don't have to be as on-call 24/7 anymore. You can leave her free for long periods of time as she watches TV or goes to a friend's house or sequesters in her room with the cat and her homework. She's evolving into this amazing person who (in my totally unbiased opinion, of course) is simply brilliant and hilariously funny and all while being frequently exasperating. She's growing into her own more and more.

And she's needing me less and less.

There's a bittersweetness that comes with that, of course. I've never wanted to be one of those hovering, helicopter moms, breaking out the apron chains every time my kid has an idea of her own that's contrary to mine. My mother was the queen bee of sheltering parents, and I do believe it was sometimes to my detriment. When I left home, I was completely unready and unable to fend for myself. I'd never had a checking account, never paid bills, never made a budget, never cooked, and never hung out or made friends with anyone who was radically different from me. Thank God I fell in with the right people until I got a taste of all of that and worked it out for myself. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I hadn't.

So I do believe it's my job -- my duty, if you will -- to be sure she's independent and ready to face the world on her terms -- face it, run with it, thrive in it.

And to do that, I have to let go.

I'm ready for the emotional distance. I'm no longer her bestest friend but I'm still her companion in adventure here and there and we share enough "us" time that I get my Mommy fix. Strangely, I get a lot of joy out of watching her navigate all the stuff I'm glad to be well rid of: school dances, classroom crushes, frenemies, and boring teachers.

What I'm having a problem with, really, is the physical distance. Don't get me wrong, we still hug a lot. But gone are the days when she curled up on my lap or crawled into my arms just because. I can hug her goodbye in the morning but not in front of her friends, ever. I can smooth her hair at night when I say goodnight, but I don't dare touch it during daylight hours. God forbid I ever hold her hand. I'm riding the fine line between "I love you, Mom," and, "Mom! You're so embarrassing!"

Which brings me to last night. Anna climbed into bed with me after her brother went to sleep, and we lay there talking about life, people and of all things, our favorite flavor of muffin. Eventually, we both started yawning and Anna confessed that she was too drowsy to walk back to her room. I just pulled the covers up around her and kissed her forehead. She snuggled in and that was that.

 

Sleeping Tween

 

Somewhere around five-thirty in the god-awful a.m., the alarm started blaring and I hit the snooze. After I rolled back over, I encountered a shoulder and remembered my daughter. I pulled the covers up around her again, smoothed her hair back and pulled her close.

And for the next twenty minutes, I held my daughter. I held her and played with her hair and stared at her beautiful face and twined my fingers in hers as she slept. It was worth missing the sleep for -- God knows when I'll get an opportunity to revel like this again.

And no, it's not creepy, I'm her Mommy. Excuse me, her Mom.

Her embarrassing, embarrassing Mom.

I assure you, I will stealth-ninja snuggle her any chance I get, 'til my final breath.

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