Today is my daughter’s 16th birthday, and I feel like I have been walking around all day, holding my breath. There’s something special about the relationship a mother has with her youngest child. With my firstborn, every experience was, and continues to be, new. While I’m not typically a parent who tends to be overly anxious, the waves of worry that I have experienced with my oldest feel more like ripples in a tide pool when I encounter similar experiences with my middle son and my daughter. Today, however, everything inside me as a parent feels tight with disbelief.
I have become accustomed to the pace of maturation set by my oldest. He is independent and sadly, more responsible than his mother. While I may be a tad more fluent in the language of kitchen, he can outdo me on most everything else. He mastered the art of how not to launder a blazer, finds food all by himself, and successfully makes his own travel arrangements, minus the occasional blizzard hiccup. I have shifted into a minor supporting role, and it feels comfortable for both of us.
My middle son is not far behind his brother, and while I’m a little more clingy with him than I am with my oldest, I can still muster a smile as I watch him fend for himself and make big decisions on his own. I have yet to figure out how I will feel when he graduates from high school and heads toward his next venture. Thankfully, I still have a couple of months left before I have to face this new reality.
For some reason, however, I feel less than comfortable with my daughter following behind her brothers at a similar pace. Funny how that works. I want to hit the brakes, stop the bus, and make an illegal u-turn so we can quietly slip back in time without anyone noticing our absence. I can’t help but notice little girls with puffy jackets and tiny light-up shoes. Walking through random stores, I lose myself in the toy section, reminiscing over favorite books, activities and games. I think back to when older people used to give me advice and tell me to ‘cherish these moments’ when my children were young. Why do these words ring more true now when it feels too late, than they did when I was knee-deep in raising little people?
Perhaps everything feels a bit more tender because my baby is a girl. I don’t know if that’s sexist, or even if it’s true. All I know is that my little girl has grown into a smart, funny, beautiful young woman and I feel the same way I felt when my oldest turned 16…unprepared and not emotionally ready for what this birthday signifies. I am beyond excited for her, and just wish I had a bit more time to settle into the fact that everyone is growing up so quickly. Emmy – I’m ok with you borrowing my shoes, handbags, or whatever else you want in my closet. Just promise me that you’ll still hold my hand every now and then and will keep a place for me in your world.
Wishing you the best birthday ever. You are so loved…