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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Last First

I admit to being a sentimental mush-bag, so even though it was the thirteenth time I waved my daughter off on her first day of school, a lump formed, the eyes filled up, and I turned away so the high school senior didn’t tease with a smiling “Maaa-uuum, you’re such a looooser” before pulling out of the driveway.


Then, I stepped inside the house mulling a thirteen-year-old memory of a pre-kindergartener with a Dutch-boy haircut stepping on a practice bus on “Move up Day”—a recollection that was followed by an unfathomable image of next fall. Instead of waving her off to high school a mile away next September, we’ll be hauling trunks into some college dorm room, God knows where.

“It goes so fast” has a new reality for me today, though when she reads this (and she will) and laughs at me for being a sap; I’ll confess that this year is not markedly different from any other. On every first day of school I cried, because the day meant another milestone reached—another landmark in her life had passed. As a mother of an only child, I’ve never experienced the “here we go again” feeling that I imagine parents with more than one child go through. Once our girl moved on, that was it. There were no “do overs” and usually, after the fact, I’d wring my hands thinking, “What do you mean we’ll never be doing that again?”

These transitions have never become less surprising, which strikes me as strange, because I think I’ve been paying attention. Not once, in the seventeen years that she's been alive, have I taken her for granted. Something about the hard-earned victory that was her arrival, and that fact that she remained the sole star of the show, has made me grateful for every moment with her. Yet, no matter how clearly I focused, I can’t count the number of times I turned around to discover she’d suddenly moved on…from a toddler to a school girl, from a tween to teen, from a partner in the passenger seat, to an independent driver with her first summer job. Now she hovers on the brink of adulthood and I’m floored to contemplate what next year will bring.

Today I’ve stepped on a speeding train. The track is on a downhill slant. I’m tempted to reach out and pull the emergency cord but won’t because slamming on the breaks is dangerous. That said, will someone explain to me why as parents, we spend so much time grooming our children for the future, only to hold our palms up at its arrival and turn yearningly toward the past?

9 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

It's bittersweet, isn't it? My baby just started kindergarten and I'm getting that sinking sensation that "This is it." But I'm also excited to see the maturing. It's all about the complexity of mothering and loving--the pain as well as the joy of it.

rae said...

I teared up reading this one! The sentiment is simple, true, and very well expressed.

Helen Ginger said...

We groom because we have no other choice. They grow - up and out. We might want them to stay two or ten, but then we and they would miss being three or eleven.

Just remember that you still have 18 and 29 to look forward to with your daughter. She may move out, may get married, but she'll always be with you.

Andrea Mack said...

How wonderful that you have so much appreciation for your daughter. The "first" of anything is always a landmark, and though I didn't cry when I sent my two daughters off yesterday (one in highschool, one in middle school)I did take some time to reflect on the moment. Your blog looks interesting!

Piedmont Writer said...

Oh my God, the tears are still pouring from my eyes. That was so beautiful and true. I didn't cry when I sent my daughter off to kindergarten last week, I cleaned my kitchen. I cried though when I picked her up. I couldn't believe how much I missed her during the course of the day. And if I feel like this now, I wonder how I'll feel when I send her off to college. Hey, maybe we can be roomies? I'll work on my MFA.Lol.

glnroz said...

ohh myyy goodnessss,,,, there aint room enough here for me to get started.. lol One thing though,at least in my mind, they never grow up, every time i see them it is like they are getting off the bus from that first day of school..

Jan Morrison said...

My forty year old just left the house after I served him lunch. My step-kids are in grade 10 and 12 and our newest addition, Felix, an international student, is in grade 11. We have to hold on to them tight when they most want to leave because that is how they make a good break - clean and strong. So hold on as tight as you want. Here's a poem I wrote when my two sons left for university (the same year)

Last night when I went to bed
I turned off all the lights
I turned off all the lights.
Jan Morrison

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

One day she'll provide you with grandkids and many more firsts!

Robin said...

The reason you do the preparing is because you know in your mind that you can't stop or slow down time, so the best you can do is prepare your girl for what is to come. And you hold your palm up when it arrives because that response is coming straight from your heart. I answered that but you knew it already... just breathe.