It was an innocent comment, a quick answer to an unexpected question, and my heart simultaneously broke and grew in the span of 60 seconds. My head easily recognized my tween daughter to be asserting her independence, appropriately no less. But my heart felt like I was losing her. Losing her to what, I don’t know. All I knew is I could feel my chest tighten and a physical pain in my heart. In the days since this incident I have come to realize that letting go is my biggest task as a mother.
My kids, as much as I want them to be, are not mine to keep.
I can remember one of the first times I felt this intense combination of pain and fear of letting her go. She had been accepted into preschool, and I was an emotional mess. How could I let the center of my universe just go out into the big world without me? Who would love her as much as I did? Would she speak up for herself when needed? Who would protect and rescuer her like I did? Ultimately I justified sending her to preschool because I knew if it hurt that much to be separate from her after three years together it would only hurt me more to be separated at four.
We, or rather I, survived preschool and even kindergarten. I cruised along blissfully unaware of the next impending separation milestone. The day she would no longer run to the car to see me at the end of the school day. I can still remember that Fall day. I remember the black cotton dress with roses and red capri leggings that she wore, and how wild her curls were. As usual, I pulled up, leaned over the passenger seat, and rolled down the window with a big cheesy grin on my face. For a moment our eyes locked. I sat there like an excited puppy, waiting for her to run and hop into the van. Instead, I saw her turn back around and continue talking with her friends. 100% innocent and yet I took it as a personal rejection. It was official: I was no longer the highlight of her day.
And now here I am with a tween daughter.
A tween who is pretty much perfection when it comes to being a tween daughter. She is kind, a dedicated student, and (as all moms think of their kids), incredibly beautiful. But she is a tween and with that comes the natural tendency to distance herself from her parents. It’s the quick dismissal of me when she sees her friends. Or a request for her friend’s opinion when she used to want mine. It’s even the need for space after a particularly challenging day at school. All of it harmless and yet all of them feel like I am losing her. To what, I don’t know. All I know is right now it is scary and it hurts like hell.