This weekend I took my baby girl, who is no longer a baby, to college. She woke up at 4:30 on Saturday morning, cleaned up the kitchen, took out trash and recycling, made her bed for the last time, then woke me at 5:30.
“Time to go, mama,” she whispered into the darkness.
We hit the road about 6:30, stopped for a quick coffee and breakfast to go and drove along the coast. We didn’t stop until 10:00 when we reached the university.
Along the way, she played music for me, songs that mostly made us sing out loud, laugh, talk. One song, however, was different. I heard the lyrics in a way I hadn’t before.
We’ve always loved Dixie Chicks, she & I. It is a beautiful part of our shared narrative. As I drove we sang, we smiled, and the tears came. Couldn’t help it. She reached across the console and held my hand. I smiled behind the tears. She squeezed my hand a little tighter.
Moments like these ARE relationship.
Moments like this speak to the many many moments, times, memories experienced across a connection between parent and child.
I carry all the times I so value with this now young adult woman. Relationship changes. But it endures – the composite of so many exchanges, experiences, and events.
Two days pass so quickly. She doesn’t need me now. She is only looking ahead.
“It’s really happening, mama!” she exclaims at the quick lunch she grabs with me before I leave on Sunday afternoon. Her excitement is palpable, contagious. I leave smiling inside and out.
My grandmother used to tell me this: “Honey, you only really get the first five years.” I didn’t understand what she meant. But looking back across this child’s life, I see she had a point. Our babies are really dependent only upon us for those first five years. After that there is school, sports, events, friendships. Others step in to be part of the village that raises the child. The expansion of community has an effect on, changes the dynamic between mother and child.
On the drive home I consider all the parents bringing their children to school, many for the first time. Do the parents who drop off their babies for kindergarten and first grade feel the same? I remember tears at kindergarten separation. What a passage. Children move on. They grow up. We are excited for them. Very sad too.
Eighteen years went by in a blink. As a young person I thought it would be my whole life, raising a family. Turns out, it’s only 18 years. And yes, I know…it’s not over, just changing, and still. Five years also goes far too quickly. Wasn’t she just born a minute ago? Didn’t she just take her first steps? I wasn’t done with that part yet.
This sweet sad parting has left me with an opening to the next phase of her life, but of mine as well.
Passages matter. The way we experience them and the things we communicate to our children matter too. We want to send them off knowing we are excited for them, delighted for them. We want them to know in their core that we believe they are ready. We know they are capable. We expect them to do well. We trust them to make good choices.
Go sweetheart and take on the world! You can. You will. You are!