Spreading Her Wings

cheering woman student open arms at campusThere is a shift taking place in my life right now. As regular life continues to happen around me, I feel trapped in a time warp, a black hole of sorts.

A vortex of emotions.

The stack of boxes, bedding and trinkets has been growing for several weeks. Staged in the back room, away from the path my regular routine takes me through the house each day. The room that used to hold all things Little Tikes, LEGO and My Little Pony. Where imaginations turned boxes, blankets and couch cushions into castles. The game room, formerly known as the playroom.

Teens don’t like to hang out in a playroom, you know. Hence, the name change.

This summer has been deemed “The Longest Summer Ever” for my daughter, who graduated high school on June 17 and doesn’t start college classes until September 22.


I can feel her absence already, as boxes are taped shut and “lasts” are marked off an imaginary list.

And in a twist that seems particularly cruel to a mother, I can clearly remember a time when I would have given my right foot to have a little break from parenting. Maybe an overnight with the grandparents or a few hours away while Dad mans the ship. When your kids are small and needy and so very BUSY, the mere thought that one day they will be out on their own and adulting might be the only thing that keeps you going.

It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, the holy grail of parenting — the young adult child.

Because toddlers can be tough.

I honestly enjoyed parenting, even when I had to dole out a punishment or deliver a lecture. There were times when I cried, when they cried, times we all cried together. Through the foot stomping determination of a 3-year old to the eye rolls of a tween, I pushed ahead with new determination each and every day. Even after the toughest of days I would find myself standing at her bedside after she fell asleep, watching her chest rise and fall as the rhythm of her breathing brought me back to the starting line.

Ready to tackle another day.

Most days, I’m almost giddy that she’s going to college and choosing her own path. Some would say I have made it to the finish line, that I’m done parenting and can hang up my cape. Empty nest! More time for yourself! Freedom! These are the cheers I hear from my parenting crowd, many of whom still have tiny hands leaving fingerprints on the sliding glass door and pounds of Goldfish crackers ground into the carpeting in their minivan. They look wistful, envious maybe. I feel like I’m betraying my people if I don’t have fabulous plans to cruise to Alaska, take up yoga, get a tattoo or start my own organic food co-op.

But some days the tears pool right on the brink of my lashes.

Because I’m still parenting.

What did I forget to tell her? Is there one must-have piece of advice I was supposed to frame for her dorm room wall? I can’t swaddle her in a hug when something goes wrong, can’t ask her to tag along on my Target run on a whim. I won’t see that adorable bed-head when she wakes up or even know what she’s wearing. My grocery store cart won’t hold any of her favorite snacks or that disgusting green juice she insists on drinking every morning.

I should probably still get the ice cream.

It’s like watching a movie unfold as you fall in love with the characters, the story line, the flaws and challenges they all overcome. But you don’t know how it ends just yet.

Is this the end of a chapter, or of the whole novel? My brainer-than-me writer/parent friends often debate this topic as a way of postponing the inevitable letting go. Which is really all it is. But am I launching or casting out? One implies setting free, while the other leaves room to reel them back in when needed.

Letting go.

That’s what I am doing this weekend. I’m not getting a tattoo, not hanging up  my parenting cape just yet.

But I am glad I bought the ice cream.

Eighteen Candles

mom holding baby girlParenting.

One of the few jobs that doesn’t necessarily get easier the more years you have under your belt. Because while your skills might sharpen as you balance the tightrope between “yes” and “no” every day, your child is changing the playing field.


You might have one child or five — all boys or a mixture of kiddos — but each and every day you suit up to play a game that isn’t the same game you played yesterday.

I’ve done this parenting thing once already. With 22 years under my belt and a son recently launched into young adulthood, I thought I had it all under control.

My baby girl changed the game.

And now she’s ready to fly.

My last child, my only girl… I’m not sure what it is.

But while I am incredibly excited for her next chapter in life — college move-in only one month away — my heart is already missing that little girl who has been my sidekick for so many years. The toddler who grasped my legs while I cooked dinner and now shares my love for iced coffee and Target runs.

She’s 18 today.

I still can’t wrap my head around it.

From the day she was born, she’s been such a presence in my life. This tiny 6-pound baby girl who couldn’t wait for her due date to make her appearance; who threatened to be born while her father was off in search of a soda machine in the depths of the hospital hallways.

She altered the course of our lives, bringing a new perspective on parenting to two people who thought they knew it all. Her 4-year-old brother had no idea what a game-changer she would be… or that she would be his trusted ally and playmate for years to come. To watch them interact now as young adults is incredible. These two little souls who grew up in a heartbeat — right under my nose — as I fed them, bathed them, read to them, taught them, laughed with them and cried over them.

But my daughter.

How can I sum up 18 years of memories in just a few sentences, or a few memories pulled from the pre-digital years? Shuffling through the old photo boxes this afternoon I wished Steve Jobs had been a little bit quicker with his iPhone… or that I had not worried about the cost of a roll of prints from the neighborhood photo shop.

The cost of the missing memories is steep right now.

She is tenacious and caring, both a deep thinker and a free spirit. She makes me laugh and makes me think, makes me want to be smarter and do better. She loves a debate, yet loves a silly conversation just as much. She is fiercely loyal to her family and friends.

For the past 18 years she has graced our home with so much energy, laughter and love… and when she leaves for college next month her absence will echo down the hall, towards her empty bedroom.

But give me some Facetime, a text filled with emojis, a funny meme shared with an LOL or a call out of the blue — I’m good with that.

She’ll always be my sidekick.

Happy 18th birthday, sweet girl.

It’s time for you to fly.

kak grad walk


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.