My dog thinks I am amazing. I know this because when I walk in the door she runs to greet me within five seconds. (I work as a prep chef, so I always smell like food, which I'm sure has something to do with her affectionate greetings.)
When I sit down on the couch, she immediately comes and makes herself comfortable on my lap. And when I am cooking, she lies down in the doorway of the kitchen and just watches me, as if I were some sort of a culinary wizard. She is, of course, waiting -- hoping, that I will drop some morsels on the floor for her, but clearly, she thinks I'm amazing.
My kids used to think this too.
When they were little, they would run to the door when they heard me come home, squealing, "Mommy!" When I came into their preschool classrooms to read a story to the children, or to help with a craft, they were proud to have me there. Proud that I was their Momma. And their favorite place to be was probably cuddling on my lap while I read to them. Sometimes, if I was doing a particularly good job with the story, I would catch them watching my face instead of the book.
With my older daughters, it was probably around third or fourth grade when things started to change. I remember coming to school one day to pick up the girls, and one of them walked right past me, barely glancing my way. I knew she saw me, but she acted like she didn't even know me.
She came to understand (because of my extensive lecturing) that her behavior was unacceptable. I made it clear that if they did not, at the very least, greet me warmly and treat me with respect, we would implement my husband's cultural tradition of kissing on the cheek every time we came and went.
But a new reality had started to form. Although I knew they loved me, I also knew that they needed to separate from me in some ways to grow up.
They are learning and becoming young women. They are asking questions and testing limits. They are forming opinions and relationships and habits. And honestly, when they talk about what they are learning in school, I pay attention and try to learn something myself.
At times, hints of admiration still peek through: I say something they actually think is funny; I laugh at something one of them says that is quite hilarious; instead of embarrassing them in front of their friends, I behave like the normal human being that I am; we have a heartfelt conversation where we both feel heard and understood.
My niece, Rachel, was visiting over the break with her two young children. When she spoke about her mom, I could see the love and admiration she has for her. Her mom was a single parent for several years, and she worked incredibly hard and sacrificed a lot to give her daughters the best she could give. Now that Rachel is a wife and a mom, and she is experiencing what it takes to be a parent, she gets it.
And I get it, too, because I did the same thing with my mom. It wasn't until I grew up and lived a little, (living on my own, going through a few heartbreaks, and eating Minute Rice and frozen veggies with sweet and sour sauce five times a week) that I began to really appreciate who my mom was.
I realized she was smarter than I ever gave her credit for. After I got married and had children, I began asking questions and listening to her advice. I wanted to hear all her stories. I came back to the reality I knew when I was little: My mom was amazing. A wise, compassionate, outrageously funny, culinary, parenting wizard. I know my kids will get there. It might take some time, but I am a patient woman. And in the meantime, I've still got my dog.
• Becky Baudouin lives in the Northwest suburbs with her husband and their three daughters. She blogs regularly at beckyspen.blogspot.com.