My daughter—the little girl whom I just taught to walk and talk—turned sixteen yesterday. I’m still reeling. Yes, I know she’s five inches taller than I am, and has been for about three years, but I’m vertically challenged so that’s insignificant. Yes, she’s discussing what colleges to apply to, and I’m thrilled that one of them is my own alma mater. Yes, she notices cute boys now and even comments on them when her father isn’t listening. But how did this happen so fast and without my noticing the passage of time?
Of course, she’s become a charming, funny, lovely young woman who warms the cockles of her mother’s heart by reading voraciously and getting straight A pluses in all her creative writing courses. Her talent on the trumpet far surpasses mine on the flute when I was her age. Amazingly, she’s also a skilled basketball player, genes she clearly got entirely from her father. I suppose all this developed right before my eyes but it seemed gradual until yesterday when it hit me over the head that she wasn’t just growing up…she had grown up!
Granted there’s a way to go before she’s an independent adult. We still have the nail-biting task of teaching her to drive. Slogging through those college applications won’t be easy. And explaining how to balance a checking account? I shudder to contemplate it. She and numbers do not mix well.
But sixteen is a biggie. She has firmly crossed the boundary of childhood, never to return. The tears welling up in my eyes come from a wrenching combination of pride and regret. I’m proud of what she’s become, and the fact that I helped her get there, but I’m sorry that I’m going to lose her to the outside world sooner than I want to.
Parents always tell you to enjoy every minute with your children, and this was one piece of advice I did my best to follow. But enjoying the minutes doesn’t slow them down, and the rites of passage come upon us before we’re entirely ready for them.
My solution is to take pictures: lots of them. I try to put them in albums every year (I’m up to 2004 now—yippee!). When I need to turn back the clock, I go through my old photographs. That way I can recapture the moments leading up to this latest shock of recognition that time has passed too swiftly for me to keep up with it. As soon as I finish writing this, I’m getting out my daughter’s baby album.
How do you handle the big events in life that you aren’t quite prepared for?