A cold gust blew me back a step from the open front door. She took a step forward, adjusting her coat, positioning her purse on her shoulder, throwing back her hair. Her father sat in the car at the curb, warming it up for her. I wanted to ask her if she had her lunch money. If she knew how to find out where to go. I wanted to blurt out all the things I could think of that we had not yet discussed.
She said, “I’m nervous,” but her face showed something else as well. Was it pride? Anticipation? Or was it nervous with a a side of excitement?
When she started kindergarten, I felt all my time was up. That she was walking out into the big wide world, without her mommy to tie her shoes and cut her carrots into cute little circles. “They” always say by the time a child is five, she is set, formed and done.
I didn’t know I would need more time to tell her about how sometimes people are mean. And sometimes they don’t share. Sometimes boys are cute and sometimes they can be real jerks. But off she went with her blue backpack embroidered with a shark, always bucking the “girl’s” way. (Love that about her.)
And we had more time. It wasn’t the end. Thank God.
The same feelings rose in me standing there, watching her walk happily to the car, the screen door slamming shut, like a clamoring reminder that it was not my place, or my job, to hold her hand on this day.
Oh, but how I wanted to. I still want to. Now. As she’s off, traipsing the halls of a high school she may or may not attend next year. A high school. I know what happens in high school and it terrifies me. And thrills me. For her. She’s visiting a physics class. And a drawing class. Neither of which I can do. Both so far out of my reach as to be laughable.
I am grateful for the small stages, the incremental shifting that gives this goofy mama time to warm up to the idea of her baby, so much not a baby, walking away. I imagine my first day of high school, of college. Of watching from my dorm window as my parents pulled away. I see my mother in the rearview of our car as we, my new husband and I, drive off the street on which I was raised. Bringing my attention back to my 14 year old daughter, beautiful, inquisitive, funny and strange, so unlike me in so many ways, I want to pull her back and push her out at the same time.
My friend used the term “living in the tension” about something else entirely, but the phrase seems apt. Aren’t we all living in the tension of what was, what is, and what is to come?
When our babies grow and change, we grown and change. How do you handle that?