Watching Her Walk Away

She tosses her school bag on the table and heads into the kitchen to grab her lunch. Just like any other ordinary school day that starts with a quiet breakfast for two and ends when she exits the car and tells me to have a good day.
And she usually adds a thank you.

Those melt my heart a little bit. Because at 16, you don’t always consider the fact that the other members of your family are also heading into their “day,” whether it be work or errands or chores.

She retrieves her sandwich from the refrigerator — which she made for herself this morning — and adds it to her school bag. She senses that I’m staring at her and glances up.

“Are you excited?” I ask, in an eager attempt to sound cool and unaffected. To make this seem like just an ordinary school morning. Which in my heart feels NOT at all ordinary.

Her smile is my answer. She IS excited, and whispers “yes” as she leans in to hug me. I don’t usually get a morning hug, since proper teen protocol means no touching or otherwise acknowledging your familial relationship in the high school parking lot drop-off zone.

Like a taxi driver with no payment other than the quiet, “Have a nice day.”

We break our hug and she looks me in the eye, while cracking a smile. “How are YOU?” she asks, and I realize that to put on an act won’t work this morning. She’s on to me.

I’m screwed.

My baby is driving herself to school this morning.  For the very first time.

ALL ALONE IN THE CAR. (Mothers of toddlers, let that sink in for a moment.)

And I am trying to be OK with it, really I am.

Milestones are awesome, each and every one of them. She is a good driver and we spent countless hours driving all over our area over the past six months. A few miles to school should be a piece of cake.

For her, anyway.

My son started preschool a week after she was born, and our carpool days were just beginning. But now it’s been years since we were a carpool group of three. When she was in fourth grade her brother started high school, and he walked to and from school every day.

So for the past seven years, it’s been just the two of us on the morning slog to school. Sometimes we talk a little, nothing too heavy that time of day. Some mornings are quieter than others, and I just try to let that happen. Since she started high school, I often drop her off on a side street on days when the weather is nice— close enough to consider it a “ride” yet far enough away that nobody would see her with her mother.

And I watch her walk away.

And in that mom part of my brain, I see a little girl wearing a tiny backpack not large enough for any high school textbooks. A tiny little girl wearing adorable round glasses, a pair of pink leggings and cute bangs that framed her sweet, smiling face.

And I imagine that I am dropping her off at kindergarten.

It’s only for a few hours.

And I know she is growing up, and I LOVE watching her spread her wings and begin to mold her future. But I can’t always reconcile in my heart that the tiny girl in pink and the long-haired, leggy 16-year-old girl carrying a trendy handbag for her books and wearing Chuck Taylors are the same person.

She’s heading for the door now.

In her hands, she grasps a brand new lanyard that holds the keys to her independence.

And she is radiant.

“Have a nice day!” I say in a forced but chipper voice. She turns at the door and tells me to have a good day, too.

The door shuts behind her.

And I watch her walk away.

Comments

  1. Oh, how the time flies.
    I love you … And I love her.
    And wow, am I ever proud of you both. xo

  2. I can still picture Karly on the first morning of kindergarten.
    I remember exactly what she was wearing. And her pigtails.
    Her new Stride Rites.

    She ran across the playground (all 35 pounds of her, or so) with the total confidence of a little sister who’d been watching her older brother do it for more than a year.

    Now, she’s fifteen. She’s been watching her older brother drive for more than a year. Pretty soon she’ll see him leave for college and she’ll drive herself to school.

    But when she walks out the door, I will always see that tiny girl in pigtails making a beeline for the swings in the kindergarten yard. And I will smile.

    “Have a good day!”
    Indeed.

  3. My oldest just finished all of her college applications. If I think about it too long, I start to feel that lump in my throat. And then if I think about her brother (who will get his license at about the same time she leaves) leaving a few years after and then her sister after that, well…I just try not to do that.
    Anyways, I love this. Let’s just keep trying to remind each other that we are the lucky ones because we get to watch them grow and go.

  4. I envision my daughter, now four, at that age and I can feel my heart pull. You painted a beautiful picture

  5. Gina Cahill says:

    I felt the same, such a weird feeling of both pride and fear. We have had so many milestones, first smile, first step, first day of school, but now I feel like we are winding down on the milestones of childhood. Only a few more left before he is adult. I really know the meaning of bittersweet.

  6. I’m headed on a school bus with my kindergartener to a field trip this morning. And part of me wanted to groan at the idea of riding the bus. But after reading this, I think I’ll soak up that he’s still so little that this is how we do things, knowing that I’ll blink and it will be him grabbing those car keys and heading off on his own.

  7. The milestones are always bittersweet, but oh, knowing they will happen farther and farther outside of the sphere of home is hard. You wrote about this so beautifully, and I will keep it in my heart for when I am facing the next step my kids take away from me. <3

  8. Great post…. so know the feeling 🙂

  9. These stages of letting go… WOW. They are just so… abundant! 😉

    I saw you both there, in those moments. And then I thought of my own little girl who today, is that little 5-year old still, but tomorrow, will be right where your girl is.

    xo

  10. It goes by in a flash huh? I can hardly stand it. I know I’m going to be standing in your shoes in a blink of an eye.

  11. I can see this coming, like a freight train that is traveling way too fast. And in just a few short years, I will be writing this too. Thank you for the snapshot. xo

    • I hate that I always seem to write about how fast it all goes… because I damn well KNOW it doesn’t always seem that way. Only in hindsight. But yes, you are on that freight train, and when I see your little guy in his baseball uniform it sure takes me right back there.

  12. Gulp! What a milestone for you both. Sending love, complete stops at stop signs, within the speed limit driving always and full tanks of gas. xoxo

  13. Why does this not come in the “What to expect when you’re expecting” book?? We need to start getting ready for that moment starting as soon as they’re born. No one tells us, they say, “enjoy!” sure, but no one says “WOW. that independence that they need? whoo boy it’ll cost you your heart.” LOVE THIS< SHERRI. xo

  14. clarice a. says:

    I went thru somewhat the same thing with my 15 year old daughter this past Easter.She was never baptized as a baby due to her being born a premmie and in and out of the hospital for over a year ,then two relocations,and then other things cropped up and her baptism kept being put off.Finially this past Easter vigil we had her baptized along with all the other babies,little kids,preteens and teens.Like all the other girls baptized,we dressed her in the traditional,white,poofy,top of the knees,short sleeve,baptism dress with the matching bonnet,white tights and white mary jane shoes and had the traditional,white cloth baptismal diaper with plastic pants over it and the white tee shirt as her top.I was happy that she was in the outfit and finially being baptized,but yet a little sad that she was moving on.All of the kids who were baptized at Easter vigil,then made their First Holy Communion on May 22nd and all the girls had to wear a poofy communion dress and veil with their baptism tee shirt,cloth diaper,plastic pants tights and their mary jane shoes.After i got her all dressed in her communion outfit,she looked gorgeous and stunning and i actually started to cry realizing that our “little girl” was finially becomming an adult with just her sacrement of confirmation comming up as her final step into adult hood.

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