By Nancy King
I’m big on routine. I like things to follow a certain order and have a certain familiarity to them. Maybe it fools me into thinking that life can be controlled or at least made less chaotic and surprising. Who knows why, but yesterday, I broke with routine and braided my daughter’s hair. She’s five-and-a-half, and every morning, in the few minutes we have before school to get dressed, make breakfast, eat breakfast, find shoes, decide on what to bring as a “share item” and get out the door, I brush her hair and put it in the same hairstyle: loose with each side swept up in a colored hair tie. Yesterday, perhaps because of the warm weather or because her hair’s getting long (she’s growing it for Locks for Love), I decided to arrange her hair in two braids. She was happy to go along with the experiment–she’s not burdened by my need for sameness and order–and when I was done, I stepped away to check out her new look. And that’s when my eyes welled up. I had no idea what prompted the tears and blinked them away quickly. But now I know: in that moment, my daughter looked different to me—beyond beautiful, sweet, and maybe a shade older. And that brought tears to my eyes. Everyone says children change all the time, a bit every day, every hour. And it’s true. But in that moment, I actually saw her change and grow—and grow away from me. It’s what we expect; it’s what we as parents prepare our children for—and prepare ourselves to accept. But I suppose I wasn’t prepared to see it so clearly early yesterday morning. I can put her hair back the way she used to wear it (she slept in her braids last night and insisted I make new ones today), but I can’t turn her into the person she was yesterday, last week, or when her hair was brand new and tinged with red before it turned blonde. And that’s precisely as it should be, but I will still cry for the little girl who is growing up with me and away from me.