A friend of mine who is possessed of 2 small children recently asked those of us who are farther down the parenting road if we agreed with the adage that "the days are long but the years are short". I gave him a resounding "you betcha*".
When you're not getting a full night of sleep, when you never eat a hot meal, when you are convinced that your loin fruit will in fact be the only kid at college still wearing diapers, when you are putting your butt in the hard seat of one more school concert you never think that your life will be your own again. You are quite convinced that your future holds nothing but sandy eyelids, cold mac and cheese and the chapped hands that come from washing after yet another diaper change.
But that's not the way it is.
The little beggers grow up and they keep growing up. And then, all a sudden, you wake up one morning and the damn baby can't be found. It finally happened. You finally DID leave it on the bus. And then some adult-sized person walks out of the nursery wearing a "Twilight" tshirt, grumbles something unintelligible in your general direction and pours itself a cup of coffee. No need to call the Port Authority. You didn't lose the baby. It just frakking grew up.
Today The Child is 17. (Yes, she's still The Child. It is my last bastion and you'll not wrest it from me). More to the point, she is now only 1 year away from being a legal adult. Even more to the point, I have but one more year (and a few months...she'll only be halfway done with her senior year when she turns 18) to make sure I've taught her the rudiments of what it will take for her to make her own way.
She's a good kid. A very good kid. Oh, she can't unload the dishwasher in less than 30 minutes to save her life, her room is thisclose to being condemned by the health department and she still prefers the floor to all other surfaces for the storage of her stuff. But she's a good kid. She may drive us ocassionally insane with her know-it-all attitude but she doesn't drink or smoke or do drugs. She asked for a purity ring for her birthday. She doesn't skip school or sneak out or break curfew. And when she is dealing with anyone other than The Spouse or me she routinely impresses them with her open heart, happy spirit, level head and good humor. This is me, counting my blessings.
But it is certainly very much on my heart today that this is a milestone quite unlike many others. This time next year my role will officially begin to shift from supervisory to advisory. Yes, she'll still be in our house for a while and the old "as long as your under my roof" thing will absolutely apply. But once the government recognizes her as an adult, so must I. This is a gift that Dame Judi gave to me (Sean, not so much...he didn't really "release" his daughters until they were married. Sean is way old school). From the time I left home, Dame Judi stopped telling me what to do. She was always there for me - and still is - any time I needed advice or perspective or prayer or just a sympathetic ear. But once I was on my own, she respected that I had to make my own way. She didn't always like how I did it and she no doubt bit her tongue more than once but she trusted that she'd given me a solid foundation from which to launch my own flight. And so, having no other model for it, that's what I now prepare to do for The Child. I'm now closer than ever to turning her out into the world, whether I think she's ready for it or not. (And let's face it, part of the "readiness" only comes with the doing. Gots to push them baby birds out the nest!)
But she's not going anywhere for now, except out for sushi with her parents, so no need to get all maudlin and crap. Not to mention that if I did get maudlin in front of her I'd get a big eye roll and a "Mu-ommmmm". She's still not too grownup.
*time honored phrase which I am determined to reclaim from She-who-must-not-be-named.
Labels: The Child