I thought I had more time.
When you were a baby the years stretched out on a seemingly endless horizon. The notion that you would one day turn 18 and leave home for college seemed a lifetime away. All I could see right then was the precious baby with her big blue eyes and that adorable smile lighting up her face.
I figured I had years and years. I should have known better.
And then you became a toddler, and later a preschooler, and you wanted to do things for yourself that I had always done for you. I was proud of your independence but I started to think about the time coming all too soon when you would begin elementary school.
I thought I still had lots of time left with you.
You were only 5 and in kindergarten. You had trouble getting used to the idea of being at school all day, and I had trouble getting used to you being away from me. But I had your baby sister at home and she was a real handful, keeping me busy most of the time, so I didn’t really notice how fast the time was passing. I volunteered at the school so I could still see you during the day sometimes. Besides, we still had years and years together.
I really thought we’d have more time.
And then you got further on in elementary school and you started wanting to spend time with your friends, so we set up playdates and hosted sleepovers and watched you blossom. Your personality emerged more and more, and it was a delight to note all the ways we were alike and different. You definitely got your singing voice from me, but your eyes from your Dad. You loved it when I came to eat lunch with you at school.
Time flew on but I knew we still had almost a decade before you graduated high school. Lots of time left.
Intermediate school came and you surprised yourself by winning the school spelling bee. After a while you found your way socially and expanded your group of friends. More playdates (except they were called “hanging out” now) and sleepovers went on, and sometimes we even took friends with us on summer vacations. I loved watching you with your friends and seeing you interact. I started missing you a little, and the way I used to have you all to myself.
There was still more than five years until graduation but I could feel the loss of you already beginning.
Then came middle school, and a big move to another state. Lots of adjustments were happening and some came easily while others came at a cost. Too often it was you who suffered the most. Throughout it all you were doing your best to be a good sport and live up to our expectations. It was painful to watch you struggle to find friends in our new home, but your father and I cheered you on as you reached out and made connections, even though we knew sometimes you would rather curl up in your room with anime videos than risk rejection.
I realized that the thought of you packing your things in a few short years to move into a dorm room was enough to take my breath away. Where did the time go?
Then over the summer there was a boy who wanted to be more than a friend to you. He hung out at our house a few times and it dawned on me that one day you would meet a young man who would deserve your love (he will have to be a rare specimen indeed) and you would link arms with him and make a home of your own. I wondered how well we as parents had prepared you for such a thing.
I think my Mama heart stopped for a few seconds when I thought about you getting married one day.
This year you started high school and it was tough. Good grades require more and more of your time and effort. You have more friends and you’ve developed new interests and ways of thinking that both surprise and delight me. What a marvelous person you’re turning out to be! You are caring, thoughtful, and incredibly creative, not to mention talented and beautiful. You don’t waste time worrying about others’ opinions of you – you follow your own path. Your father and I are so incredibly proud of you!
But along with the maturity comes the natural desire to forge your own identity and this sometimes causes you to want to spend time alone, and that’s okay. Because sometimes when you emerge from your cocoon you want hugs and back rubs and to sit close to us on the couch. In those times I see glimpses of that baby girl you used to be, and she doesn’t seem so far off.
I truly thought I would have more time. And I wonder: did I savor your childhood, or did I rush through it while anticipating the next stage? Did I overlook the joy of the day in my curiosity about what tomorrow might bring?
Did I wish your younger years away in my eagerness to see you grow up? And furthermore, have your Dad and I done a good job of preparing you to grow up? We thought we’d have so much more time for that.
It is so ironic that when children are younger they are desperate for their parents’ attention and the parents aren’t always willing to give it. And yet when they get older and they no longer seem to need that constant attention, the parents miss giving it.
We will follow your lead and let you grow up at your own pace, even though there are days when we wish we could slow down the passage of time, because every day brings us closer to the day that you will one day leave home to make a life of your own. Which is as it should be.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to take. Meanwhile maybe you can be patient with your parents for wanting to be around you so much. We’re just trying to prepare ourselves for the day when you’re not here all the time.