One night not long ago, right before bedtime, my seven year old lost another tooth. She had gone at least six months without losing one, so it was a bit of an exciting event. Delighted by the thought of the Tooth Fairy bringing her a couple of dollars for her lost tooth, she could barely contain her excitement.
After a few minutes of proclaiming how excited she was, a moment of trepidation stopped her in her tracks. She looked at me and said “Oh no. This means I’m growing up, right?” I assured her that it is an indicator of getting older, and she quietly mentioned that she didn’t want to grow up. I thought that was an odd thing for her to say, as she usually talks about looking forward to doing things she can’t do now when she gets to be a teenager. But quickly the Tooth Fairy talk returned and off she went to bed.
“I don’t want to grow up.”
Fast forward to about 3:15 the next morning. I had gotten up to go to the restroom and all of a sudden as I was about to turn out the light and return to bed, my daughter rushes into the bathroom with tears streaming down her face. After a few minutes, through her giant tears, she was finally able to tell me what was wrong. “I don’t want to grow up. Because if I grow up it means you will die.”
I could practically feel my heart shatter into a million shards of glass onto the floor. Logically, I know that this probably stems from conversations we’ve had with her as well as conversations that she’s overheard about my own mother’s rapidly declining health. My initial thought was to reassure her that nothing is ever going to happen to me, but… I’m a realist. Instead, first, we talked about how old her Daddy and I both are and that we both still have our parents around and so she will likely have us both around for a very long time.
My job as her mother is to give her the skills to thrive.
I explained to her (as I have numerous times before) that my job as a mother is to teach her to be able to live on her own so that if for some reason I’m not there, I’ve given her the skills she needs to not only live but to thrive. And then finally, I made a promise. I promised her that I will do everything in my power to ensure that I’m around as long as possible for her. We talked about how that means eating healthy foods, exercising, and even continuing to learn and read to keep my brain sharp.
As I tucked her back into bed, I thought back to my pregnancy and how I had this incredible, innate, and automatic shift in the foods I chose to eat to nourish her as she grew in my womb. Now I know that I have to make that same shift again, but this time it’s to nourish her a little differently. After all, I made a promise.