Lately I’ve been feeling like that 12-year-old boy on whom all the girls in school have a crush: The more I offer them nothing besides my sheer indifference, the more their collective heart swells for me.

In this scenario, my daughters are the schoolgirls to my lothario. I’m not sure what I’ve done to become the sole object of their undying adoration, especially since I haven’t a fraction of the acid-washed wardrobe of the New Kids on the Block, carefully sculpted mustaches and goatees of the Backstreet Boys, or Justin Bieber’s cool hair. But I’m on the cover of their imaginary Tiger Beat magazine every week regardless, with the centerfold and the back page also devoted to my total awesomeness.

Every time I make an appearance, it’s as if I’ve been gone for an eternity, and my return is as miraculous as Jesus’ resurrection, complete with confetti, a smoke machine and a rainbow array of Peeps.

“Mommy!” my 4-year-old daughter, Petunia, exclaims with glee, rushing over to hug and kiss me. “I missed you so much! Did you have a good time in the bathroom?”

Peony, 1, waddles over to me like a penguin on crack, grinning from ear to ear and waving her arms inanely in a gesture indicating she must be held by me immediately lest she risk death by a thousand broken hearts. And that’s just when I walk from one end of the room to the other and back.

I’m pretty sure Peony wants me because I’m kind of her security blanket, essentially the most consistent presence in her life in the 13 months since she was born. And I suspect Petunia’s interest in me is in direct correlation to Peony’s because whatever Peony has is exactly what Petunia wants, including and especially the air in her lungs (which would explain why Petunia so often seems to be trying to squeeze it out of Peony via her neck and chest).

My poor husband, Rick, is constantly doing a figurative microphone check to ensure his is on because lately he can’t occasion so much as a grimace from either girl if I’m around. Or, rather, that’s about all he can get.

The other night while I was cooking, I asked Rick to keep Peony entertained outside the kitchen to minimize her risk of getting splattered with the hot oil bubbling on the stovetop. He sat on the floor in the den and launched into his one-man-band routine — singing, dancing and acting out all the parts of Old MacDonald’s Farm in a performance worthy of Oscar gold.

There were lights flashing, bells ringing and music playing. He was the equivalent of a hot tub in the cafeteria, and still, all Peony wanted was to be exactly where I was, hugging the back of my legs, burns and subsequent skin grafts be damned.

It was probably silly to have Rick even try, as no one-man-band, or any band, really, can compete with the Beatles, whom it appears as if I am to my girls, circa 1964. And when I push Petunia and Peony out of my arms because I have to do something more pressing, such as wipe myself or buckle them into a car seat, they’re like those girls in the audience at “The Ed Sullivan Show” who fainted from the emotional trauma of being so near their heartthrobs and yet so far away.

The whole thing is flattering, yes, but only until you realize there’s a fine line between reverence and felony stalking. It’s not like Peony lacks for companionship. Rick enjoys nothing more than having her in his lap, her head resting on his shoulder, eating breakfast together and taking walks in the backyard exploring the flora and fauna. One sight of me, however, and it’s all over. As soon as my eyes lock with Peony’s, no matter how quickly I look away, she wants what she wants, and it’s always mommy.

On our recent trip to Disney World, Petunia was so taken with me that she insisted I was the only one allowed to push her stroller — because even though she couldn’t see me, she needed to know I literally had (or was at) her back.

I’m enjoying the attention and affection while it lasts — not to mention the zero effort I have to put forth to elicit my daughters’ giggles, belly laughs, warm hugs and endless streams of kisses — because surely the day will come when I reach out to hold one of their hands or look in their general direction and they’ll shoot ice bombs at me from their eyes as they steer clear of me like houses that give out toothbrushes and raisins on Halloween.

Yet while I know I should be loving feeling like a rock star and savoring every sweet minute of their infatuation, when I can’t move from the kitchen table to the sink without at least one of my children literally hanging on my knees and threatening to draw tears like Gale Sayers in “Brian’s Song” if I shake her off, it’s still kind of hard to see the forest for the really, really clingy trees.

 

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