Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Just yesterday, she was demanding food every three hours, making me rock her to sleep, and arguing the merits (every morning) of wearing pink and red together. She danced in recitals, cheered for her high school team, and went to Prom. She graduated, survived Rush, and now has an apartment of her own that she is driving me nuts to decorate to her standards.

Explain to me how THAT happened so fast. I feel like a time traveler.

I've invested years of my life shuttling her from one place to another, held her hand, and dried her tears. There have been times when I've wanted to put a sign around her neck that said "free to a good home" and other times when she has taken my breath away and stolen my heart again and again.

She's my daughter. And she is grown. Or at least she's closer to that than anything else.

Sometimes we fight, and she wishes that she had been given one of those mothers that writes checks, wants no information, and turns her head instead of doing the difficult work of expecting better from her than she expects from herself. Other times, she invites me to be a part of her life, and is angry if I decline because I know that in this particular case or that one that she needs to stand on her own. It is a dance that we do along with other mothers throughout the world. A unique, magical, insane dance that nobody else can follow. It is frustrating, heartwrenching, and special simultaneously. I wouldn't trade it for anything, though.

The problem that most of us have is balancing the needs of the unique but wonderful daughter we've been given with our own expectations and our knowledge base. She heads off in a direction...and we already know where she is going and how it is likely to end up. Sometimes she'll surprise us by wanting more for herself than we dare dream. But other times, we know that there is more out there for her, and she refuses to budge. I hate it when that happens, because we know that one day she is likely to ask us "why didn't you make me do that?" And our answer will not be adequate.

Sometimes the relationship between us is strained and ridiculous. She knows which buttons to push, and we normally respond exactly as she thinks we will. A vicious cycle is born, and carries on throughout our lifetimes. We are afraid of losing the relationship, but there are times when we'd love a vacation from it as well. We want to be there for the special moments, yet we want to have the confidence that she will choose well. We want to honor her choices, but we also want to keep her out of the deep water where she can easily get caught in the undertow. We want to be the mother that she wants us to be, but even more than that, we want to be the mother she needs.

It's a desperate struggle from day one forward. A struggle that they never really understand until someone places their firstborn in their arms.

So, as I reflect on the fact that my daughter is back at college for another year...in that dream state between childhood and being on her own...I sit here and hope that it all turns out well. I hope that she will want me in her life and will listen to me about the truly important things. What she will wear, how she performs in school, what activities she is involved in, and who her friends are may be the big questions of the day...but I'm more concerned with the much larger ones. Like who she will end up with one day. Where she will permanently call home. That her life is spiritually healthy. That she not form bad habits that will plague her life. So far...so good.

We never know how much time we have to make an impression. There are forces outside of us that are strong and wily and dangerous. Her heart can be stolen away, and we know that we would trudge through the gates of Hades to get it back. Some of us already have.

Our daughters are a gift from God. He plants dreams in our hearts for them, and gives us the tools that we need to get through the journey. But he also gives us moments...little pieces of time that adhere to our hearts and minds. We look at the amazing women that they are becoming and we see a little reflection of the generations of women who raised us in them, and we also see something incredibly wonderful that is their own contribution.

At this point in time, I am thinking about all of those times I sat and read a book, brushed her hair, and listened to whatever the latest drama was in her life. I realize that I have captured a lot of her moments on film, but not nearly enough of them in my heart to suit me. And my time of being able to make more memories is dwindling. She wants to go her own way now...and I cannot be a part of everything that she does. I recognize that, and I'm grateful for the pieces of time that I am granted. But it took me twenty years to figure out how to mother this child, and it is difficult to know what to do with that now that she doesn't require so much of me anymore.

So, those of you out there with young daughters that you'd love to have a moment's peace from...put down your to-do list and indulge yourself in their worlds. For those of you who - like me - are in that stage where they love you but they aren't exactly thrilled to spend extended time with you - try to realize that for better or worse...nobody can replace your influence in her life. And trust her, because after all, she's her mother's daughter. She will find her way, will choose the love of her life and will be fine. At least...I sincerely hope so.

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