Look away if you aren’t the kind of person who likes sentiment. It’s been a long time since I posted one of these stories about my life, my kids, snapshots of us, the Growing Pains and grace notes inside the nutty every day chaos of parenting, and growing youth, not kids, not toddlers, young adolescents.
My girls amaze me more than they know most days. Their strength is apparent to me, their Mom, and yet they very often don’t see it themselves. Some strange warped tween and teen girl mirror only lets them see first the tiny little mistakes, then the itty bitty fleeting things that are but a milli-second in the course of a lifetime. A pimple, an errant curl, a dry patch of skin. This, I know well is teen and tween girl reality. I was a teen girl once. I remember the time I spent agonizing over the tiny meaningless things. Things that weigh nothing when you hold them. Things that cannot be held or hugged or loved. I now know though that these are not even a drop in the bucket of lifetime memories.
The other day my beautiful oldest girl asked me as I dropped her off at high school: “What university do you think I should go to?” I wanted to say the one right here. The one that lets you stay here in our home for longer. Instead I did that Mom thing I do where I think first of her and second of me and say: “Ottawa has an amazing bilingual program. Guelph if you truly want to be a veterinarian. Here, if you want to be a teacher because the teaching course here is one of the best.” I add: “Of course there are no bilingual programs here. If you really want to keep your French language skills then Ottawa might be the best option, and it is such a beautiful city.”
And my high school freshman disappears into the school where she spends so much of her time growing her brain, her social circle, becoming all she is meant to be. I am left sitting thinking HOW is it possible a life speeds by this fast? How is it that children defy laws of the universe, breaking barriers of sound and speed, battering a parent’s heart into a different shape. I dreamed of a baby for so long and then she was there and I spent entire seasons just taking pictures, back in the day before digital photography. Lying beside her on the living room floor shooting pictures on an old Minolta, later to be developed at the local drug store or Costco across town. Every event, every milestone captured in triplicate. First time she reached for a sip cup. First roll over. First bike. First day of school.
When I close my eyes I can easily find grade nine awkwardness hidden in one of the regions of my brain. That 14-year-old girl in limbo feeling, of where am I going, what am I doing and why can’t I get there faster? I was that girl. I couldn’t get out of high school fast enough. I read everything I could regarding university. I planned. I charted. I read. I studied university catalogues, both as my nighttime reading material and my dreamy afternoon go to escape. If I wish to be a doctor, I will go here. If I choose to be a lawyer I will go to Toronto area and get into law school and if I want to be a journalist Waterloo then Conestoga College, Ryerson, maybe? I mapped my future daily and I knew just how it would happen. I knew I’d make it happen.
I know my older daughter is not quite there yet and I thank God for that. We are mostly comfortable. Spacious home, a pool in the yard, a room big enough to dream in and things to do in the meantime. Homework, martial arts, school, babysitting, singing, theatre. So many trips I still hope to take with my family now, and maybe later too, when she is my grownup daughter headed towards a life with her own family.
So many moments right now feature this leading lady Independence and her understudy teenage stubbornness. New milestones to meet every week. Sometimes I see results of hard work and parenting and the many sleepless nights. Sometimes I wonder, I hope and I keep repeating the rules, the goals, the lessons hope she takes with her for a life beyond this van, this city and this home.
There are still a lot of things I want to say to my daughter.
I wish you’d stayed small a bit longer. I wish I’d been able to pick you up into my arms and carry you from the car to your bed at least a dozen more times. Wish you’d fallen asleep curled up on my chest weeks longer. But I’m also happy you grew, learned and walked on time.
I hope you know endless, unconditional love is here in my arms and my heart for you, as long as I am alive and then some. There are days when you are gone to school, like today, when I swear I can see the future and I start to miss you already before you are even gone.
If I had your ear all day long I would tell you this:
Take some time just to be,
But Always Come Back,
You are more than enough,
Ignore Pimples, split ends, boys and girls who do not get you,
Be Careful too when the occasion demands it,
Be Smart as You Already are,
Trust Me When I say that you will be my daughter even when you can’t see me,
Let Your Voice Run Free, Because it is a Gift,
Remember to Be,
And Be my girl as long as you can.