She Will Leave Me Someday

My daughter started High School this fall. Fourteen years old already; where has the time gone?

It seems like just yesterday that I brought her home from the hospital. Only two days old, I had not quite mastered the art of breastfeeding. By that night my milk came in and my breasts felt like two hot bags of rocks. Full, hot, and lumpy. I felt like Bessie the cow trying to express some milk so she could finally eat. After a lot of tears, hers and mine, we were finally in sync. We’ve been in sync ever since.

When I think back, all of the ‘terribles’ were not all that terrible. The so-called terrible twos weren’t bad. The first day of Kindergarten was tearful, hers and mine, but we got through it. Her first grade teacher told us she would be on the honor roll some day. I laughed and said, “have you seen her handwriting?”

In the second and third grade I had to beg her to read something more than baby books. Now I have to beg her to put a book down to get her to do something else. In forth grade, she made honor roll. She had the same set of teachers for fifth and sixth grade and excelled and consistently make honor roll over and over.

Jr. High seemed like a scary place after all of the stories of drugs, fights, and teachers that didn’t care. The same first grade teacher just told her to steer away from the drama and she would be fine. She did, and loved Jr. High and all of her teachers.

When I would tell people about what a great kid she is, they would say, “Oh, just wait until she hits 14, that’s when it all changes.”

Maybe it’s not so much the kid that changes, but the parents who don’t tell them quite as frequently how much they love them or how special they are. Just because they’re older doesn’t mean that you don’t have to tell them anymore. My daughter and I hug each other several times a day and exchange I Love You’s.

When I was pregnant I didn’t really think I would be a good mother because I just didn’t know how. Parenting is a learned process in part and I didn’t learn my part very well. But my daughter actually taught me how to be a good parent. She was so easy to love and the more I gave, the more I got back.

So here we are 14 years later and in what feels like just a few minutes, she will leave me. She will be headed off to college and I will be alone. I know this is the way it’s supposed to be, but I’m not ready. I told my husband during summer vacation that we would only have a few more family vacations left before she leaves. The look on his face let me know that he hadn’t thought about it that way before.

I remember when my youngest step-son went away to college, our daughter was only 8 weeks old and we drove that final trip and met him and his mother there. When his dorm room was put together it was time to go. My husband leaned up against the door frame and started crying. We all laughed at him and up 'till recently still make fun of him. I don’t laugh anymore though because I know all too soon it will happen to me and I will cry too.

I’ve heard of Empty Nest Syndrome and always thought, “what’s the big deal.” After your kid is gone you’re free to do the things that you used to do. But when your child has been a part of your life for the past 17 years or so, what is there to get back to? I don’t remember a life before her. All I see is a lot of lonely days ahead of me.

No more looking out the window waiting for her to cross the street on her way to/from school. No more listening to her day about what the cute boy sitting next to her said. No more consoling her when her best friend moves away. No more hysterical giggles over that dumb talking pothole commercial. I don’t know if I’ve told her enough about the world and how to make herself fit into it. Those are things she will need to find out for herself.

All I can do is make the best of the time we have left; hug more often, tell her I love her, take that last vacation, and then send her out into the world, all the while praying that I have done enough.


Grumpy said…
Sounds to me like you've done just fine.
ethelmaepotter! said…
This is so beautifully written, and brought back so many of my own painful memories of my daughter's leaving for college. Don't listen to people who tell you you'll love it after a couple of weeks - honey, I cried every Sunday afternoon, when she would go back to school, for a solid YEAR. And then some. I cried at work. I cried at the football games. I cried in my car. I cried at KFC.
I hope you can handle it better than I did. The best I can tell you is that it WILL eventually get easier, and she isn't gone forever, and this is what we raise our babies for make their own way in the world.
Enjoy these times together, give out lots of advice, and keep the Kleenex handy.
Elle said…
What a beautiful tribute to your daughter. I always figured I would be close to my daughters because I am so close to my own mother. So far so good!

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