In the beginning we shared space, my body reshaping itself around you cell by cell. I shared the rhythm of my heartbeat willing yours to grow strong and keep time. We shared blood and breath and all the cravings: Texas toast at 2 a.m., oranges by the sack full, ounce upon ounce of thick, juicy steak. We shared a bed five ways, you and me and daddy and the cats, me sleeping on my side, you nestled in my stomach wedged between a pile of pillows. We plodded up the hills of San Francisco weeks before your birth, swaying with each slow step, stopping for each sharp intake of not-enough breath, moving on with each grateful exhale.
Once you arrived from the inside out, we shared sleepless nights in the rocking chair and infinite hours of cradling, shushing, nursing, bouncing and burping. We shared the endless loop of lullabies on the CD player, a forever soundtrack to your babyhood. We shared countless readings of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight Moon and Hop on Pop. We shared weekly sessions in music class and making our way barefoot across sticky tumbling mats. We shared mornings at the park and afternoons of blessed quietude when you napped.
We shared Pirates Booty and sliced apples with the skin cut off and lots and lots of string cheese. We’ve shared a million Cheerios, a hundred thousand grapes, a thousand spoonfuls of strawberry yogurt and scores of avocados. We shared butterflies on your first day of preschool and again on your first day of Kindergarten. We shared pride and joy when you scored your first soccer goal and comforting hugs when you found out you weren’t invited to the party.
From the moment you were born I’ve looked for myself in you, searching out what we share. Your strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes did not match my brown ones. Your lanky newborn body did not mirror the baby photos of my chubby one. The urge to see myself in you is mighty: will you be a reader, a writer? Will you like to play tennis? Will you tilt your head to the side when you’re listening to a teacher, watching a movie, sifting through the Sunday crossword? Will you learn all the words to Born to Run and Just Like Heaven and belt them out with wild abandon?
The glittery sparks I hope we share are as abundant as the stars in the sky, but I also worry that you and I might share tendencies I do not want to pass along: a quick temper, an inclination towards isolation, bouts of self-doubt that linger too long. While I want you to experience the depth and breadth of what it means to be human, I don’t want these feelings to hold you back like they often do me.
Now you are a teenager and suddenly we can share t-shirts and yoga pants, deodorant and nail polish and face cleansers. We share our prominent noses, our long torsos our slight builds. We share a penchant for procrastination and the fling and flurry of last minute finishes. We share our love of science, especially anything to do with outer space and the mind-boggling mysteries of the universe. I share with you what I know about friendships and boys, the benefits of a consistent bedtime and the pitfalls of too much screen time. Some days you share your heart with unbridled enthusiasm, as if reporting on the discovery of a new cure for cancer. Other days you retreat into yourself, earbuds firmly in place, your phone pinging with messages from the outside world, your world. It’s then I wonder if what we share is fading slightly, like a pair of well-washed jeans you still love to wear, but not everyday.
It’s hard, but I force myself to stand back and take you in from a distance. You are creating your own space and don’t always want to share so much with me, whether it’s the details of your middle school life or my old-school love for Bruce Springsteen and The Cure. I get it. You need to find your own anthem. You are busy becoming yourself, mining your own uniqueness, layering over what we share to become your full and exquisite self.
Here’s what you need to know: I’ll always be right here holding on to what we share, from the wrap and coil of our DNA to our love for sci-fi to our Roman profiles. When you’re ready and wondering, come look for a slice of yourself in me. There’s plenty to share.
This essay originally appeared on Mamalode.