I used to pick out her clothes.

A frilly Christmas dress, perhaps, with velvet details or an adorable bow in the back. I’d watch her twirl around the room, admiring how the skirt would fan out and her eyes would dance, too.

I used to do her hair.

A tiny barrette for her wispy toddler hair, at first, then ponytails and thick braids. I’d comb and part and twist and fasten, smiling at the finished product in the mirror.

I used to dress her from head to toe.

But she’s not my little girl anymore.

And in her place is a creature I’m not quite sure I know what to do with.

She’s not a teenager yet, though I catch glimpses of her impending emergence more and more often these days. The heavy sighs. The dragging feet. The flashes of annoyance that narrow her big blue eyes.

All part of the metamorphosis, I remind myself as I trail her slightly surly shoulders through yet another store, looking for “dressy” clothes she’s willing to wear. What that looks like, she’s not sure—other than being absolutely certain nothing I suggest is right.

It’s been months since I last picked out her clothes.

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It’s a tough age, this no longer a girl but not yet a woman pause.

In so many ways, she’s already grown. She doesn’t need me like she once did, doesn’t rely on me to button her shirt or comb her hair.

But she still needs me—just a different me.

Truthfully, I’m not sure who that mother is just yet.

I suppose we’re both searching for something here amid the sweaters.

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I keep my mouth shut and follow her lead, and the metaphor is not lost on me.

On this day, she finds something that makes her face brighten—a fuzzy, red velour sweater I would have passed over were I the one doing the picking.

“What do you think, Mom?” she asks, her wide, little girl eyes searching mine for approval.

I smile. “I think it’s just right.”

She spins on a satisfied heel to smooth the soft fabric in the mirror and tuck a long, unruly hair behind a pierced ear, and we take one tiny step forward

I used to pick out those clothes.

I used to do that hair.

Both of those girls are gone.

And in their place, slowly but surely, a new mother and daughter are finding their way.

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Originally published on the author’s Facebook page

Carolyn Moore

Carolyn traded a career in local TV news for a gig as a stay-at-home mom, where the days are just as busy and the pay is only slightly worse. She lives in flyover country with her husband and four young kids, and occasionally writes about raising them at Assignment Mom