"I have so many questions right now."
This is your opening line to so many conversations, typically when you're staring out a car window or just about to exhale into a deep sleep. You're four years old — the age where bathroom breaks are torturous wastes of time, a kiss can fix most anything, and Mom has the answers.
And the questions tumble out of your mouth — out of your suddenly lanky body:
Why do leaves fall off trees, and why do people cut down trees, and how does a tree become paper, and how do the leaves come back?
Where does the water come from?
Who makes people? And who makes the person who makes people?
You collect answers — filing them away into what I only imagine to be an organized stockpile of facts and experiences. You look to me, waiting for answers that all moms have. Moms with their knowing looks that ooze authority, and with their shoulds and shouldn'ts and don'ts. I am your compass.
And yet you don't, you can't, see the person behind the mom. You might catch me in rare glimpses — a playful look, a passionate adult conversation, a childhood photo where I'm playing with the same toys you play with today. But I have a specific role in your life, masked in motherhood.
If you saw beyond the mom, you'd see a person with her own questions. I'm observing and absorbing — much like you. While you're in the infancy of your development, I'm still in a primitive stage of adulthood. I might know scientific facts (ahem Google) and social norms, but as far as real life perspective — as far as being a mother and a wife and an adult — the sun sets and I wonder if it'll rise again. I'm still relatively young to be parenting a 4-year-old child, but you don't see my age. You don't see how my identity is new and evolving — how I'm purposefully and quickly growing into the person that I want to be, for you. And also because of you.
Ever since you were born, you've been trying to understand and learn — to make sense of the nonsense around you.
Ever since you were born, I've been refocusing and transforming. I might know why leaves fall off trees and where water come from — but what does my behavior teach you? How does our behavior, as a society, affect you? How do I prioritize what's really important after seeing life through your fresh, unaffected, uninfluenced eyes?
To you, I'm mom. But I'm also a young woman growing into herself.
And one day I hope you're proud of the woman — the mom — you helped create.
I love you.