It took me a few minutes to type the title of this piece. The passage of time unfolds without paying attention to the complicated, sad or happy. Since my daughter’s birth, I am accustomed to marking time with her milestones. Today she will leave home as a fifth grader and when she slides into my car for pick-up in the afternoon, I will hear her first words as a sixth grader. Eight years ago she walked into the entrance of her school as a three-and-half year old, her backpack taking up the entire length of her body, a matching lunchbox in hand while she sported a Dora-the-Explorer haircut. Her tentativeness sprinkled with bits of excitement, not knowing what to expect. Before I said goodbye to her on the first day of preschool, she sprinted with full force, hugged my body with purpose and said “Don’t go, Momma. Stay.” I lingered for a few minutes, patted her on the back and told her, “You will have fun at school and in a few hours I will come to pick you up.” She half-smiled and said, “Ok, Momma. See you later.”
I walked out of the school, the texture of her hug still breathing on my skin. A tiny tear sought refuge on my arm, an acknowledgment that only a few years ago she first learned to walk for the first time on green grassland in Texas. After a few steps she stumbled, laughed and then tried again. Her father and I gazed at her with expected glee. The magic of those first few steps are not in the rearview mirror and I am able to recollect the seconds of the entire experience as if her walking happened yesterday. The milestones always feel that way. Then they pass, and replaced by transitions, like skipping stones in a shallow pool of water. I am always behind. I still hold on to what was and although I take all the necessary physical steps to move forward, my insides are stuck in an internal time machine. I think of all those firsts, flipping the pages of her scrapbook, laughing at her first meeting with a lemon, her love of chocolate ice cream and the constant repeating of the words, “Where are you, Momma? I am just checking on you.”
It seems as if I am doing the checking now. We are hurling headlong into a period of tween transition and the walking and swagger that comes with those years. I will reframe the way I mother because her needs are different now. She’s learning about disappointment and rejection, navigating the world more like a pre-teen than a naïve little girl.
My want to preservethese early years translated in directing her to take, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss,” and have her approach each of her teachers and ask them one piece of advice to memorialize in her book. The advice, I found, will help with my parenting journey too. Some of the wisdom she read out loud: “Always be true to yourself and not swayed by others, Don’t ever forget that a kind word goes a long way, What is important in life is the size of your heart and the strength of your character” and also, “Never give up!”
I suspect there will be moments we will want to give up because we don’t want to fight through our parenting struggles, but we will. After all, on the other side, there is likely another adventure and I suspect another milestone waiting to be discovered.