It's that time of year again -- crisp blue skies, the nostalgic vibes of summer's last hurrah hanging thickly in the air. The buzz of the back-to-school ads clamor for your attention. You make another note on the endless to-do list. "Clothing, Shoes, Supplies, More Pressure!"
How is it possible that another year has flown by? The clock is ticking so quickly. You try in earnest not to think about next year's complex emotions -- when your baby will leave their carefully feathered nest.
You glance over at your daughter throughout the day as you prep yourself for the dreaded shopping trip. You see how time has etched deeper responsibilities into her blossoming face, smoothed away her babyfat, and shaped her impatient movements.
You can't help it. You find your thoughts drifting back to when she was younger. Let me share with you a special memory of my daughter, when I was filled with joy at the promises life held for her.
Wearing a broad smile with her seven-year long braces shining, she wore her USA flag wool cap with tassels dangling from each side, as my daughter traveled down the steps of the luxury motor coach just returning from her 8th grade school trip to the Adirondacks. Her hat tightly enveloping her head, a friend said: "She never took it off. She wore it all day, every day, even at meals!"
This made me smile -- as did my daughter's radiance. The vision of how she looked over the past four days. A face largely resembling mine, but at 14 -- full of youth, promise and vitality: My girl at 14. Close to six feet tall, with a lean and strong body.
Was she now still a girl?
This was real magic: she lived once inside my body, a few cells multiplying; she was I and I was she, we were in the same being, one and the same. We shared a body then, like we share confidences now -- wholly, unreservedly -- but not always, based on her teenage moods. I hold the easy expectation though, that our deep bond will never break.
I saw in her girlish features and coltish frame -- the glimpse of heartbreak coming from me even then. She was intensely vibrant in that moment, rasping her mommy greeting, "We stayed up all night laughing and talking, and I lost my voice!" She was half girl, half woman, and beaming. I wanted then, as now, to stop the clock and never let my baby go.
But now, her smiling face, surrounded by her friends. She had the time of her life. A time that overflowed with crazy fun -- nothing better. I've lived on the tales told of that fun for long years, re-telling the stories, those best memories, and now she had them.
Fast-forward four years. Aside from the typical late August back-to-school humdrum and the lists of errands, we've got more SAT's ahead, more college visits, the Common App plus the supplements, oh -- and the essay topics. Don't forget community service, is that complete? AP courses, academic expectations, Model UN, varsity basketball, the zillions of clubs, student council, and more.
This is one massive anxiety-induced year for your rising high school senior. It's an anxious time for teens and mothers alike. Trust me, I know -- aside from all the emotions of what's to come, the pressures and unknowns, I'm still recovering from the daily reminder of my own academic limitations.
Attempting to answer "The Official SAT Question of the Day" that's repeatedly dropped into my inbox, is enough to prompt serious consideration for a move to a remote island in the South Pacific. I get all the math questions wrong. Every one. I gave up answering them. The reading questions are better served, I get most correct. But I still feel sure that overall, I'd never be accepted to college today. No way. But as my sweet girl reminds me, I'm not applying.
What has happened to the long last golden summer before this real transition begins? My daughter has been talking about what's ahead. She's anxious, but fired-up. She wants to go! Live the college life! What will that mean for me? Will she be happy? I'll admit -- I'm not quite sure I'm ready for this. I hear my grandmother's whisper, "It's just a look out the window and poof --they're on their way."
I've been tossing and turning at night, indulging in the "might have beens" a passing look at her childhood pictures wondering: "Did I do enough? Have I really prepared this young woman who was a baby only yesterday for all the decisions to be made in the real world? Have her father and I prepared her for the inevitable rush of men, how to protect herself, and how to make prudent decisions?"
I rest in the knowledge that it isn't over just yet. We've got one last year to help prepare her for leaving home. And, somehow to prepare myself. As mothers we struggle to maintain our own identity. The instinct is so fiercely strong to protect, nurture, and prevent breakage for our children -- at all costs. We assume their stresses; it's downright biological. There are no limits to what we will do to keep them whole.
We must acknowledge the results of creating our total identity around our kids. They grow up. And they fly. And all we want is to witness their health and equipped independence. Nevertheless, we stand bewildered over the fast passage of time. Seems we never have enough time with our precious miracles. Am I right, mommies?
In these moments of big life change, lean into it. And trust what we know deep in our hearts that we did the best we could for our kids. It's also a good time to recognize that we may have been so busy teaching our children that we forgot to tend to ourselves. We must take pride in the art of moving forward when our souls feel like they may shatter in recognition of yet another life stage to navigate.
Don't go faster than what seems comfortable. And don't fail to leap when your instincts say to leap. Just start thinking about you; invest in yourself as our kids invest in themselves. Stand strong and full of hope for their happiness and wholehearted life. And spend time crafting yours -- the time is now!