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?