The Hardest Gift

I’ve seen her each morning this past week of summer. Little wisp of a girl on her brand-new big girl bicycle, shiny pink helmet guarding her head and a smile that won’t stop.

Freedom. She tastes it — possibly for the very first time. She rides up and down our street each morning, past my kitchen window, too many times to count. Pink and white tassels fly from her handlebars and flap in the wind, making her ride seem just a wee bit faster.

As parents, we want this freedom for our kids. No, really — we DO. We dole it out to them in tiny measures at first. I still remember the first time I walked down the hall, away from my young toddler’s room while he was busy and engaged with his books and toys. I was giving him a little gift — some time alone without my constant chatter or my overwhelming need to note the color of something or the sound of the train whistle in the distance. A bit of space that says I trust you, have fun, make good choices.

I’ll be right here.

What little pushes and cautious bits of freedom we give our little ones — at times, reluctantly — multiply and grow into a cloak they wear as teens. Freedom becomes expected, something they have earned bit by bit that we must never question or try to take back.

And so goes the delicate balance we live when the teens are home — especially those who have lived on their own for a bit. Their freedom is everything to them, and offers of assistance or advice are often pushed aside.

I’m fine.

Yes, mom.

I’ve got this.

I don’t need your help, but thanks.

Freedom.

When the little girl went by this morning, I asked my almost-15-year-old daughter if she remembered learning to ride her bicycle on this very same street. If she remembered the mom-imposed boundaries she was allowed to ride within without supervision. My version of without supervision at the time involved casually walking out to the sidewalk and cautiously squinting down the block to make sure she was still alive, that she hadn’t fallen prey to the dozen or so scenarios I had crafted in my mommy brain and wrapped in a blanket of worry.

She did remember, and we both smiled at the memory of a feisty little 3-year-old whose boundaries were the tree five houses down and the crack in the sidewalk just almost around the corner. The boundaries and edges of our comfort zone stretch and reshape themselves, until we are left with a young adult whose choices and decisions we no longer have much control over.

Exactly what we are intended to do.

But it’s hard. Harder than you can imagine, that first time you give that little pink bicycle a gentle push and she goes sailing away, ponytail flying and wearing a smile bigger than her face.

You will smile too… and in time, these pushes will all pay off.

I watched the little girl ride by again.

And I smiled, and silently cheered for her… and for her mother down the street.

Because she’s earning her freedom…

but her mom had to give it away.

_______________________________________________________________

This piece was originally published on Moonfrye

 

 

Being 15

Kelli cake

Fifteen.

Fifteen years ago today, I held you in my belly for just a while longer…

You yearned to get out. You made that clear with your powerful kicks and incessant hiccups.

But I still had time.

I wasn’t really ready yet. I had been too busy to make up the crib with fresh sheets, or to set out your sweet little unisex onesies. You weren’t really due for almost two more weeks, and your four-year-old brother kept me on my toes every day, asking a billion questions that I, as the mother, was expected to know.

We were busy… busy in that sense of the word when Monday just blurs to Wednesday and then Sunday… and we are left wondering where the time went.

Kind of how life is now.

I wasn’t ready. I worried that I hadn’t taken the time to savor this second pregnancy, to just sit and feel you move and just be pregnant. Those fleeting months when I carried you seem like a blip in time.

I just wasn’t ready.

Second kid, you know.

But you had your own ideas.

And when labor started, I realized that I was ready… ready to meet you. Ready to try my hand at parenting yet another little one.

And when you surprised us — a girl! — I was both giddy and cautious. I was a boy mom, after all… fluent in dinosaurs and Legos and all things boy.

But a girl?

And then you taught me about raising girls… that girls can run and climb and break bones and laugh until they snort. Taught me that life was meant for running full-force ahead, for laughing with friends and for late nights reading in bed. That there is no day that can’t be improved with a bowl of ice cream, a piece of chocolate cake or a hug from a friend… that sometimes it’s better to let little things go than to worry. That when things don’t go your way you can always try a little harder.

Fifteen years. Where has the time gone, really?

Some days I think you have taught me more about life than I could ever teach you.

I am in awe of your confidence, your loyalty, your kind spirit and your fierce determination when obstacles stand in your path.

You make me smile, make me laugh, challenge me and call my bluff.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy 15th Birthday, sweet girl…

Enjoy being 15.

Kelli no braces

Little Girl Lost

I’m not quite sure when it started to become so obvious to me.

Obvious that my little girl isn’t so little anymore.

Was it how her body seemed to stretch overnight, and I found myself almost eye-to-eye with her now? Maybe the slight eye-roll when I said something a bit too uncool? The swing of her hair when she walked down the hall?

Maybe it was the shoes.

The 8th grade promotion shoes. Her feet are small but her need to be big is fierce. We spent hours searching for the perfect shoes for her promotion dance and ceremony.

They had to be perfect.

But being the practical mom that I am, I had guidelines for these shoes. They couldn’t be too tall or too expensive, and she had to be able to walk in them.

Simple enough.

As we searched I watched her try each new pair on her tiny little feet, gazing at herself in the store mirror with an expression I hadn’t seen before.

Then she would walk. As I bit my lip and tried not to say a word, the shoes fought her and won every time.

Too tall; can’t walk in them.

Some lessons can’t be taught by a comment from mom or an I told you so.

We finally found the shoes online…a bit too tall, but she could walk in them and they were perfect with her dress.

The kind of shoes a high school girl wears.

And it hit me.

That little girl who used to run everywhere, who was fiercely independent, who hated naps and loved horses?

She’s gone.

But in her place, I’ve found a confident young lady who is polite, caring, funny, helpful and still fiercely independent.

And I can’t wait to see what high school has in store for her.