Sometimes I feel like I am losing her too fast. We talk about her first car, first dates and college applications. My heart aches in silence. I do not want her to know I am sad she will leave soon. I do not want her to feel guilty for growing up. When she sits quietly at the kitchen counter doing homework, I remember art aprons covered in finger paint and smears of chocolate frosting on her cheeks. There are less and less masterpieces taped to kitchen cabinets or oddly shaped ceramic dishes holding nothing on tabletops. There are no more little voices story telling or singing the alphabet song. Instead, I hear voice lessons and choir concerts echoing through the house as she practices behind closed bedroom doors. And when I see her struggling, I worry and obsess about every moment, second guess every decision made, scared to death my past mistakes will negatively impact her future.
But then she comes to me, seeking me out when I least expect, freely giving unrequested hugs and kisses I crave. I am caught up in her joy and broken in her sadness. She tells me little secrets about herself, things that help me see I didn’t make as many mistakes as I thought, things that confirm that many past decisions did, in fact, provide her with the best future.
She doesn’t need me to hold her hand crossing the street anymore.
She doesn’t need me to braid her hair or tie her shoes.
She doesn’t often need me at all.
And yet, she still wants me.
Recently she was giddy over a boy asking her out on a date. The house buzzed about wardrobe options and hair accessories. She confirmed plans with a good friend over and over about the weekend’s details. A couple of days before the date, she announced that plans had been cancelled. There were no tears, no whining and no regret in her voice.
Immediately, I tried to “fix-it”.
“Mom,” she interrupted as we drove home from school, “there’s nothing to fix. I’m the one that broke the date.”
“But I just don’t understand, you were so excited,” I said.
“I was, until he showed his true colors.”
This young man didn’t like the plans made for their date and let her know very publicly his frustration. According to my daughter, he raised his voice and told her she was being ridiculous to not agree meeting him an hour earlier than originally planned.
“But what’s an hour?” I pleaded, immediately in teenage girl mode, thinking back to my own high school dating experiences, “surely you could give him an extra hour.”
“You’re missing the point, Mom, ” she said, “he didn’t ask me to consider meeting him earlier, he almost demanded it and in a way that was humiliating in front of my friends. If he’s going to get mad about what time our first date starts, can you imagine what could happen if we disagreed on something important?”
I let that sink in for a moment.
“So I told him I didn’t appreciate his rudeness and that we obviously weren’t compatible, so there would be no date,” she added.
I was dumbfounded by her maturity. Of course she was right. She had set a boundary and he failed to be respectful. And instead of trying to make him happy and feel good about himself, she chose her own happiness and listened to her instincts, something that took me years to figure out.
“I am very proud of you,” I said tearfully, “today, you are my role model my dear daughter.”
“Funny,” she chuckled, “because while I was telling him I didn’t deserve to be treated that way, all I could hear was your voice in my head.”