People warned me about this. They told me not to do it but I thought I knew better and paid no heed. I watched my little 5-year-old daughter walk into Kindergarten and then did the thing I regret the most. I blinked.
I blinked and now that sweet, shy, little girl will be entering high school next fall.
“It goes so fast, don’t blink,” they said.
“Once they enter school, time flies by,” they warned.
The truth is, at the time I welcomed a bit of “time is flying by.” I was pregnant with another baby, I was working full time, I was going to school full time to change careers and I was exhausted. I was excited to not have to pay the expensive fees for daycare for a while. I was ready to watch my daughter thrive and grow and experience all the joys and challenges of school. Besides, people were just being overdramatic and nostalgic. It is just something people say to parents when their children reach a milestone. Lip Service.
Oh how I wish that were true. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been present in my daughter’s life. I’m her safe place to fall. I’m the one she lashes out at the most because she knows without any question that my love is unconditional. I’ve never missed a recital or a concert or a school function. I’ve coached her running club, I’ve been the “class mom,” and I’ve left work to drop off an assignment that she has forgotten. I’ve taken her to dentist appointments, held her down when she panicked about getting a flu shot, told her about boys and God and how to make a decent grilled cheese sandwich. I’ve told her that her beloved grandmother had died and watched her do a reading all brave and poised at the funeral. I’ve taken her dress shopping, to get her ears pierced, and to get her first manicure. I have introduced her to “The Breakfast Club” and the joys of M&Ms sprinkled in movie popcorn.
I’ve said things in anger to her. I’ve pushed her away and have said, “Not now, Mommy’s busy.” I’ve purchased her a cell phone and taken it away, and away again, and away again. I lost her on the elevator in the middle of Chicago’s “Water Tower Place” and ended up on my knees screaming until a kind lady brought her back to me. I’ve cried over horrible things she has said to me. I’ve cried over beautiful things she has said to me. I’ve given her medicine, spied on her during her school recess to see if she was making friends, and made every holiday special. I’ve watched her sleep and have told her I loved her every night for 14 years. But even so…I blinked.
When my eyes reopened from that fateful maneuver, what stood before me was a creature that is all long legs, braces and straight hair, wobbly in her first pair of high heels. She is beautiful and smart and kind and her room is such a disaster I can’t even look at it. She is complicated, sometimes selfish and loyal. She fights with her sister constantly but protects her fiercely. She hates me and she loves me more than anyone in the world. She is perfection.
I’m here to tell you that I am not going to make this mistake during her four, short, high school years. I am going to physically hold my eyes open if I have to. I am going to be present and embrace every moment good and bad. I’m going to breathe her in and memorize her.
I am also here to tell you that I know I’m kidding myself. I know this is a lie. I know I will blink again and she will be walking across that stage getting her high school diploma. I will blink again because it is reflexive and that’s what you do when the tears of motherhood well up in your eyes. You blink them away, wipe them dry, and then refocus your sights on the next chapter.