The Mother Spider’s Reward sun was high in the June sky despite the early morning hour the day we saw it. It was perched precariously atop our car antenna and neither of us—my husband, my daughter nor I—was sure what it was. The consensus: Garbage. In the midst of grabbing a tissue to swipe it away, with my stomach in turmoil and my nose upturned, it moved. It was subtle at first but unmistakable, and the motion increased with the intensity of our stares. It was an egg sack. It was small and silken and perfectly shaped, and in the nascent stages of presenting to the world its swarming contents. As we stood transfixed, thousands of minuscule golden spiders wriggled their way free, crawling over each other in mayhem, uncertain as to what to do next with no mother near-by to guide their way. But quickly, like a scene from the ending of Charlotte’s Web, instinct trumped chaos and they departed, en masse, floating away on the ends of fine, glossy filaments to face the world alone.

I was moved, awe-struck by the unusual beauty of it all and by the myriad of emotions that stirred within me. I wondered why the mother spider had chosen to deposit her babies here, in this unprotected place. I marvelled at the countless coincidences that had occurred so that we were standing beside our car at the precise moment this miracle unfolded. And I envied the mother spider. She made the ultimate sacrifice—her life for that of her children—and for this she is spared the excruciating process of letting go.

In the months that have since passed the vision of those miraculous baby spiders has become inextricably intertwined with my own struggle to let go. My daughter is 12, turning 13 in the fall just after she starts high school, and she is breaking free from the protective cocoon I have painstakingly constructed around her. I see it happening every day in small but undeniable ways, and catch myself reflecting on her years as an infant, a toddler, a young school-aged child. I’m consumed with a melancholy that renders me teary-eyed. Who knew it would all be so fleeting? Who knew that, from this vantage point, it would all look so simple?

I have always wanted to be a mother. I thrive on the bond that exists between my daughter and I. I subsist on our daily interaction. Rightly or wrongly, I have made her my life. With crystal clarity I see that, in just over 5 years, when I am only 46 years old and still have half a lifetime in front of me, she will be gone. My job as “Mom” will be done. Over. Null-and-void. Finito. I will be surplus. The day-to-day reality I have come to treasure will cease to exist.

A little dramatic, n’est pas? Perhaps, but the times, they are a-changin’, no doubt about it. Take, for instance, our bedtime ritual, which has not deviated much since my Little Miss first started walking and talking. Every night we retreat to her room where she crawls into her great big bed and surrounds herself with a mountain of blankets and pillows. We have a little good night chat, and then, with a hug, an “I love you,” and a gentle kiss on the lips, I leave her to settle in…until last night. Last night marked the end of this particular era. Last night, all went according to plan, and then this: When I leaned in to lovingly graze her lips with mine, SHE TURNED HER FACE! I got the cheek. Thinking it was a joke I made a second attempt. Cheek number two was presented. Crestfallen and dumbfounded, I had no choice but to ask her “What gives?” Her response? “It’s just too weird to kiss your mom on the lips.” Ouch.

As I stand poised on the precipice of this next phase in our lives, I am a seething mass of contradictory emotions. Despite my nostalgia for the past and for what I feel slipping away, I’m excited for the possibilities of her future still to be written. I am proud of her maturity and independence but crave, like an addict, the little girl who called me Mama and held my hand everywhere we went. I am confident in her judgement, but still fret over the difficult choices she will be forced to make: The five Ds of high school—Dating, Dances, Drinking, Driving and Drugs.

I will soon be the parent of a teenager, (I say with a heavy sigh, my head shaking from side-to-side in disbelief). The Twilight series has taken the spot on our book case previously occupied by Good Night Moon; her favourite bed-side-sippy-cup, all pink and purple and sparkly and featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse learning the ABC’s, has been relegated to the depths of the kitchen cupboard and replaced by something “More grown-up”; and, despite my greatest attempts at denial, I can clearly see that boys are just around the corner. Who am I kidding? Lord help us, they have circumvented the corner and are making a bee-line straight in her direction. In the words of Bart Simpson, “Aye Carumba!”

Each phase of her life appears so ephemeral, so fleeting, when viewed through the shadowed lens of time. I want to preserve her, capture each moment we have together and know her in all possible ways before she, like the baby spiders, flies too far away. The spiders that we saw that morning were well-prepared for a life on their own, and I can see that my daughter, too, will find her way. I know she will be fine, but the question is, Will I?


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