Nine

Nine

She asks to spend Saturday at the mall, so you go. You weave your way through the traffic and the busy parking lots, the weekend crowds and the clothing racks until you find her the perfect back-to-school outfit. The sales are over and your coupons invalid, but a mother’s word never expires. You’ve been promising her this shopping trip for weeks.

You sit down for lunch and she orders her favorite and you talk about everything and nothing over chicken fingers and fries. She tells you about last night’s sleepover then flirts with the baby boy in the booth behind her.

You fight the urge to check your phone and berate yourself for not giving her your full attention. Of all the people in the world you want to connect with, it’s her. But it’s hard, so you stuff your phone in your purse.

You finish your desserts and head out into the mall, stopping first at a mega-bookstore. She’s brought her own money and the thrill of spending it on something new to read makes her skip to the children’s section where she aptly observes: “It’s, like, 90 percent toys in here and only 10 percent books.”

But still, she finds one she wants and takes it to the register. The cashier rings her up and catches you on your phone and asks if you like the new iOS update. You make small talk about technology you have no business discussing until finally she’s tugging on your sleeve.

“Let’s go, Mom,” she urges, and with that, you’re out in the mall again, holding hands and hunting for a bargain.

You stop in a shoe store and she finds a pair of gaudy glittery black flats that are marked down to practically nothing and insists they fit perfectly. Next you try on a bunch of cheap accessories at Claire’s and assess whether or not either of you look good in glasses neither of you need.

After a quick stop in a store tailored to tweens, where an unsuccessful and awkward fitting room incident offers a teachable moment about body image issues, you head to a bigger department store. And it’s like coming home. You both find things that fit.

You help her pick out a tank top to wear under her new plaid shirt, and she helps you find the right size bootcut jeans. For almost an hour, the two of you shop side-by-side, offering fashion feedback and appropriate amounts of gushing when required. You leave the mall with seven dollar shoes, two big bags, and a sense that something special happened inside.

On the way home you stop at Sam’s for pizza and a giant ICEE to go, and her teeth are stained blue for the next thirty miles.

She turns nine this week, and while she reads her book in the backseat, you wonder where the time has gone. These years have passed as quickly as the cornfields outside your window, and you know you probably missed something. Wedged between her older sister and her younger brother she often gets overlooked. And you hate this about your relationship. It’s why you promise her days like today.

And although it may take you a little while to fulfill those promises, you eventually do. You take those trips to the mall and you bake those gooey butter cakes together and you make each other rainbow loom bracelets, even when it seems like your phone and your deadlines and your own life are more important.

Because, at the end of the day, nothing is more important than her. Sure, you may struggle to connect with her sometimes. Her temperament and personality are a lot more like her daddy’s than yours. But she’s your daughter, and the last nine years have been a gift to you. Of all the things you get to do in this world, being her mom is at the top of the list.

You’re in church this morning, and you’re singing her favorite hymn. And standing there in the pew, with her arms wrapped around your waist, you raise your hand in the air and sing it loud: Unending love, amazing grace. And you can feel it in your bones, deep down in your soul, that this is what being her mother is all about.

Comments

  1. SWEET!

  2. Lovely.

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