Dorothy Harris

Welcoming the changes

This past weekend our baby girl turned seventeen. You hear how fast time flies, but seriously, this is ridiculous. Somehow within the bustle of daily life, she has grown up. Ever closer each year to being an adult, I have already seen a few glimpses of the future redefining of our relationship.

She’s got a good head on her shoulders, making this ongoing passage into adulthood a bit easier to bear. Driving has accelerated this process as she now comes and goes at will. Transporting herself to the places she needs to be has also given me the gift of more time. It’s a recent enough change, I find myself standing around the house, confused over not having to be somewhere. There are afternoons at work I stress I’m not finishing up on time, only to realize running late is no longer a reason to panic. There is no child anxiously waiting on her ride or a coach delayed by my tardiness. I must admit this development is one I welcome.

What I’m more ambivalent about is feeling like I haven’t seen her for more than a few minutes on any given day. Or when I realize we haven’t talked much recently. Important things happen, but days pass before we discuss it. This new-found independence is good and necessary if she is to ever fully launch on her own, but still, I find myself missing our former close connection.

Gone forever are the days of school pick-up lines and hearing about her day in the brief ride home. Past are evenings when she was always home and we sat down together for dinner each night. No longer do we enjoy her undivided attention as friends and social media continually compete for her focus. She is slipping away, one milestone at a time and whether I like it or not, it’s the nature of these creatures we call children.

Some parents rejoice when talk turns to our kids moving on, but I fall more on the other end of the spectrum. I work hard to keep a loose grip on my child, so as not to suffocate her independence. Even so, I’m in no hurry to kick her out of the nest. I truly hope when she fledges, it isn’t very far from sunny Florida. I understand and accept she has to strike out on her own and become an independent miss, but I hope to be a part of her life even after she’s on her own.

So we try and shoehorn family time in between all the fun and exciting things she’s got going on. The boyfriend is welcome and willing to join us, guaranteeing her presence, if not her attention. These latter teen years coming rush back to my memory as I try to recall what I thought and felt, hoping to afford her the opportunity to grow unfettered as I remain close by in case I’m needed.

Many who have already navigated these years happily remind me that senior year is a blur of expensive activities culminating in the draining of whatever remains to her preferred college. Seventeen years have zipped by while we played, taught, worked and slept.

Throughout it all, the clock has ticked away relentlessly continues to do so. I’m planning to enjoy all I can because I have a feeling her next birthday is right around the corner.