I awoke to bright sunlight and birds singing their early morning song. Everyone still sleeping, I started the dishes when it occurred to me. My baby is 18 today. I am no longer legally responsible for any children. Some might consider me a free woman, I am unsure how I feel.
How these feelings snuck up on me I don’t know. It isn’t like Bear hasn’t mentioned to me once a day for the last six months about how she was going to graduate this year and then 16 days later turn 18. But when I heard her all I could think about was planning a graduation and birthday party that was special on such a limited budget. About how I really needed a job. About the million other life things that distracted me the last six months. So I was shocked this morning when it all hit me. I don’t have an empty nest yet, but I could. How surreal it all seems.
I had a perfect plan for my motherhood. I would have three children, all about 2 years apart. That was the timing of me and my siblings and it seemed just right. We were close enough in age to get along well, but far apart enough that we could be unique individuals. Nannygoat and MacD arrived at their pre-approved times. My third child, however, did not. An early term miscarriage ruined my precise plan. After that it took some time before I conceived again. By the time Bear was born, my oldest was 7 and the (now) middle child was 2 months shy of 5.
My pregnancy with Bear was unlike both of my previous pregnancies. With Nannygoat my experience of morning sickness was I once threw up after breakfast. No warning, no nausea and afterward I was fine. With both my first two pregnancies I glowed, felt healthier than ever and I adored being pregnant. From the moment Bear was conceived I was nauseated. Not just in the morning, but 24/7. I couldn’t eat. I gagged at the smell of food. And my stomach burned like the surface of the sun constantly. I lost weight. I was exhausted all the time. This lasted the entire pregnancy. At around 30 weeks I went into preterm labor and was put on bed rest. I loved my baby-to-be, but I despised that pregnancy.
My two older kids adored their baby sister from the moment she was born. Unlike between the two of them, there was no sibling rivalry with her. They would fight over who could have her sleep in their room when she had night terrors. I would make it a contest. Whoever cleaned their room first, got her for the night. She was their reward. They waited on her hand and foot. The only jealousy during her childhood was mine. I often mussed that I never got to see my baby, because they wouldn’t share her with me.
She had that effect on everyone. She is simply captivating. I have heard it said that it impossible not to like Bear. When she enters a room, everyone lights up. Always full of energy, she crossed every room with a series of cartwheels and round offs. She traveled on her hands nearly as much as her feet. People were drawn to her. Watching her at a Brownie or school event was like watching a seasoned politician. She knew everyone’s name, greeted them all and never played favorites. She could work a room (at 6 or 7 years old!!), shaking hands, reminding me of parents names and introducing me to “Mr. This or Mrs. That” when I didn’t know them. She was popular, but would go a grab a kid that didn’t appear to fit into whatever click she was standing with at that moment and draw them into it. And it worked.
Everyone calls her a “princess” and she is. Our princess. She didn’t talk much until she was nearly 2 or 3. She had a series of noises and points that even I couldn’t decipher, but which Nanny and MacD knew immediately what she meant. She probably could have talked, but why bother? I, however, have always referred to her as my little pixie. It seems to me she has magic dust that surrounds her. In spite of nearly drying from a misdiagnosed appendix rupture at 3, being badly mauled by a dog at 18 months , being run over by a car, and being sick with undiagnosed reflux for 5 years; she doesn’t remember those events as traumatic. While some kids can list a litany of things their parents did to wrong them in their life; Bear only remembers all the good times and the wonderful things her parents and siblings did for her. And talk about forgiving? Whenever I see a malamute I have flashbacks of seeing her head in one’s mouth while it shook her like a rag doll, I could never own one. But Bear? It’s her life long dream to own a malamute (after she moves out, so I don’t die of PTSD).
While there was always some degree of protectiveness for Nanny with MacD and vice versa, it was nothing compared to the fierceness of the protection they felt for her. She belongs to them, and no one should ever dare to harm her: physically or emotionally. Those who tried are probably still smarting from the retribution those two could deliver. For this reason, Bear is a bit more naive than my other two kids. Having such a gentle and loving soul, I worry about her sometimes. But she is also strong and has an amazing ability to overcome adversity.
Now it’s not always easy living with a princess. While she can be nurturing, empathic, sweet, loving and oh so joyous; our princess can also sometimes be impatient, stubborn, and demanding. The magic is this: when she is like that her aura of light and goodness still shines so bright, that we can never hold it against her. Her soul glows with an ancient spirit that knows all and loves all. Her compassion for all things is daunting and she is so passionate about life, you can’t help but be drawn in. She knits our little family together and is often, without knowing it, the backbone that holds us all together. She is powerful but sweet, strong but soft, naive but wise; a calming presence that inspires me to be a better person every day.
I was blessed with a third child, my pixie, and my children were blessed with their very own real life princess that they got to keep. And it just doesn’t get any better than that. No matter what age she is.
Happy Birthday Bear. You are a wonderful gift from God and I thank him everyday for your presence in our lives.