In the beginning, the titles “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” are often so nebulous. Are we? you wonder. Are we? he wonders. Typically a somewhat awkward conversation over dinner solves the issue, hopefully leaving both parties happy.
Often, it’s the word “fiancé” that sends us into fits next. “This is my fiancé,” you say, quickly followed by “Oh my God that’s so weird to say!” (Cue arm squeeze and kiss on the cheek.) There’s a certain flightiness that accompanies “fiancé”—it’s poof and giddiness and icing so sweet it makes your teeth hurt.
Next comes “husband” and “wife.” These are heavy words. “Husband.” “Wife.” Much more serious. Still romantic, yes, but a little less idealistic.
And then “dad.” And “mom.” The title of mom came easily for me. Perhaps it’s because I wanted it so much. Perhaps because it’s not at all nebulous and it’s not simply made true after a lavish ceremony or some signed legal papers. I was mothering Sophie inside of me before she was even born. The intense caretaking that followed her birth simply reinforced the role.
But, for some reason, Sophie’s role as daughter—my daughter—really hasn’t felt real to me until last night. And it was such a simple act. I was picking out some birthday wrapping paper. It’s pretty white paper, with fun flowers on it, obviously meant for a little girl—my little girl. My daughter. Something swelled and I almost cried—right there in a Target shopping aisle.
Maybe it’s because for so long she’s been my baby. “Daughter” seems older to me. More grownup. Oh, I still think of her as my baby. She’s not toddling around yet therefore I find it hard to call her my toddler. She still wears pajamas with feet. She still nurses. She still uses her infant carrier. But she communicates with me, even if I don’t understand all of it. I’m no longer just her caretaker. We do things together, like a mother and daughter. She now requires wrapping paper, with pretty flowers on it.
There are so many titles I won’t experience—partner, father, doctor, son. And there are so many titles that possibly, hopefully, await me—aunt, grandma, mother-in-law. And some that feel like they’ve always just been there—sister, cousin, granddaughter, daughter.
And now my daughter. My daughter.
(Andy loves to sing this song to her.)
“That’s my daughter in the water, who’d have ever thought her? Who’d have ever thought?” —Loudon Wainwright III