I knew I wasn’t the only mother who had worried about her daughter’s making the transition from childhood to womanhood, but sometimes the challenge seemed overwhelming to me. Recently, however, I was allowed a brief, tantalizing glimpse of the woman inside this nine-year-old child of mine.
I was expecting our fourth baby when our seven-year-old son, Robbie, was unexpectedly diagnosed with osteomyelitis. When I learned that this infectious bone disease would require surgery to scrape the infection away from the bone, I reached an all-time low. He was hospitalized immediately. I spent my days with Robbie in his hospital room, maintaining a brave front that was my only defense against a growing terror. Nights were especially lonely for me because my husband spent them at the hospital with our son. Without extended family nearby to give me support, I fought giving in to an overwhelming depression.
The night before the operation on Robbie’s leg, I knelt by my bed and cried as though my heart would break, believing that I was alone. As I heaved with sobs, I felt two slender arms slide around my shoulders. Wordlessly, my daughter, still only a child herself, held me and let me cry away all my fear and pain. Though I had fought to hide my vulnerability, my daughter had recognized my desperation and had come to help me. Afterward no words were spoken; only a quiet pressing of her hands upon mine remained of the moment we had shared.
During the next two weeks of Robbie’s hospitalization, my daughter found an inner courage and continued to give me what I could not give myself—the strength to continue. During that time, I saw, with a glimmer of insight, what this sweet child-woman would become.
Robbie recovered, the crisis passed, and my daughter and I quickly slipped back into our “roles.” We still disagree over the volume of her radio and the amount of eye shadow that she insists is necessary for her survival. I still shudder when I pick my way through the clutter of her room. But our relationship has changed. Now we share special moments when we return to that sweet closeness we shared during the two weeks of Robbie’s surgery. We smile together at the antics of our ever curious toddler or shed tears over a touching story.
Watching this chrysalis of a daughter, with her tentative testing of fragile wings in a world that expects so much of her, has been a precious experience for me to behold. I have been blessed to relate to my daughter as my daughter, my sister, and my friend.