Our eldest has been away for the past couple of weeks. Last week she went to visit family friends in Ohio. I brought her home last Saturday and at 6:15 the following morning, she was down at our church, loading into a van and heading to North Carolina on a high school mission trip. When she was in Ohio she was running around, having lots of fun and rarely texted me. :o( I had to text her first and she would reply. Ok, I know...at least she answered me. This week, we were advised by the mission trip chaperones that the kids would not be allowed to have their phones with them while working, and that the focus of the trip was fellowship and helping others, so we should not expect to hear from them. I get it. But I hate not hearing from my daughter. It's killing me.
This daughter, who turns 16 next week, is heading into her junior year of high school and as anyone who's gone before me knows, this means more challenging academics, ACTs, SATs and college visits. It means preparing our baby to leave us.
Let's get the cliches out of the way.
- She has grown up too fast!
- We blinked and she's 16!
- It seems like she was toddling around just yesterday!
Cliches and stereotypes exist for a reason, you know...
So I want to say this to the Universe: I hear you!
She's growing up and out and...away from me.
It's normal. It's natural. It's the way it "should" be. Everything is going according to the Universe's plan.
I just didn't realize it would hurt this much.
I guess I should provide a little background. When I was younger, in fact all the way up until I was 29, I swore I'd never have children. I didn't like kids when I was a teenager and a young woman in her 20s. I thought they were a pain in the neck. I found them loud and obnoxious and I wanted none of it.
Things changed when I was 30. I gave birth to said daughter was I was 31 and here comes another cliche: I fell head over heels in love with her. I had no idea how happy motherhood would make me. I was oblivious to the idea of experiencing love on that/this level. Any mother reading this understands what I'm saying. It's a crazy-powerful, all-consuming love. And this love has only deepened over the last 16 years (and 13 years for my younger one). Not only do I love my daughters, I like them. I truly enjoy being around them, (when they're not squabbling) listening to the goings-on of their daily lives. I'm fully invested in everything they do. Probably more so than some moms, probably less than others.
It feels strange to not have Daughter #1 in the house right now. There's been a huge energy shift. I miss seeing her beautiful face every morning. I'm grateful to have another beautiful face to look at every day. God only knows how I'm going to react when my younger one leaves.
These past few weeks have shown that I need to accept the realities of my life and comes to grips with the fact that my baby is separating from me. Are moms the only ones who experience this sensation? Is is because our children are actually a part of us--that they physically come from our bodies--that we feel this separation so strongly? My husband misses our daughter, but he seems to be handling her growing up and out better than I.
These short trips are the Universe's way of preparing me for two years from now, when she heads off to college. I know she'll return on breaks and during the summers, but in twenty-four short months, (yes, I've done the math) my first-born will transition away from being a live-at-home child into a young, woman of the world. And "woman of the world" is what she longs to be.
"I want to get out of here," she has said more than once. "I want to see the world!"
That's what we get for taking them abroad and teaching them about other cultures when they were younger. What were we thinking??
So today I aspire to be stronger, to accept what is and what's coming. I want to be stalwart and supportive for both of my girls.
People tell me, "She's doing what she's supposed to be doing. You've done a great job raising an independent young lady." And I think, Great. I should have tempered my over-achieving ways on this one.
I'm 47 years old and still learning that growing up is hard.