When my daughter was entering high school, she crawled into my arms and said,
“I don’t want to grow up.”
Holding her in my arms I knew exactly what she meant. How could I tell her, I agreed? That most adults agreed. We also wish we could run into our parents outstretched arms, or crawl back into the safety of the womb when faced with the constant challenges life has to offer. That doesn’t change with age or experience. That comfort and need for reassurance never goes away, at any age.
I remember a dear friend lamenting the same thing to me and my mother decades ago as high school graduation approached. Apparently her parents had made it clear this was when she was expected to take on the mantle of adulthood.
We rush our childhood away wishing we were all grown up. And spend too much of the rest of our lives wishing we were young again.
So there I laid, with my daughter in my arms. By 13 she was already 2 inches taller than me but she was still my baby.
Sweetheart, we all feel scared. We all have times when we want to feel protected with no choices to make. That will never change, no matter how old you are. But life is too incredible to fear. As scary as the unknown can be, it needs to be embraced. I love you with all my heart and I’m just as scared. This is hard for me too, you’re leaving. I’ve spent so much of my life being there for you, making sure you were safe and cared for. And now slowly but surely you are doing that for yourself. I’m here to cheer you on. I’m your tether. Knowing you can fly safely because I’m on the ground holding the guideline and watching you fly.
And fly you do, my love. To such incredible heights. You amaze and awe me. You’re breathtaking, and I’m so proud of you. If I’ve done my job right, our love will grow to separation, and you’ll feel ready and able to leave. Unlike any other relationship, you are meant to leave.
And I am meant to learn to let you go. Like you, my love, I’m learning to be on my own as well. Maybe that’s why you don’t pop out as a teenager. Why we both need the years to evolve and grow.
The future is never straight. What we envision our lives becoming at 20 will change by 30. Each decade brings new perspective, changes in desires and growth. But that’s what makes it so fulfilling and challenging. Like a roller coaster you’ll have stretches of calm interceded by sudden turns bringing you to new and exciting places never dreamed of.
By this time it was already apparent she preferred roller coasters to merry- go- rounds. Already opting for the stimulation of parasailing 300 feet, flipping on the gymnastic bars, and dreaming of bungy jumping off a cliff and sky diving someday. Two years ago, she did just that in New Zealand. She jumped off a cliff with a cord tied to her ankles and dove out of a plane on a tandem jump 10,000 feet off the ground!
I continued holding her and said:
You’re scared and nauseous, at the same time you’re excited and thrilled with the coming ride. Then at the top, when you see the 150 foot drop, you think ‘Oh my God’ and wonder “What am I doing here?” Then you start to fall, and your stomach goes into your mouth, and you think you’re crazy as you feel the impending drop. Then something happens. Suddenly the ride is all that matters. The twists and turns, ups and downs, all the things you can never anticipate that makes the experience worthwhile. You, my love, are going up to the top to start that glorious journey.
As this amazing adventure you’re about to embark upon gets going, you’ll be too busy to look for, or see, dear old Mom. You’ll be watching the hairpin curves and choosing the path that works for you. Mom will become the shelter in the storm. Nothing more, just as I should be. Look back sweetheart, and I’ll be there on my own ride. Taking just as many new turns as you. For life never ends, it just curves. That’s what makes the odyssey so incredible.
So hang on tight, sweetheart, the roller coaster has just begun. . .