This year, April showers brought more than just May flowers. There still were the traditional blanket of lilies and the garland of roses for the respective winners of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, along with Mother’s Day bouquets. Joining these May flowers were two major milestones in our family.
Even though I knew that both milestones would be reached this month, I still felt rather blindsided by them. From the moment my oldest daughter arrived in the world, countless people, from family members to complete strangers, have repeated a familiar refrain. Enjoy this time while you can, because they grow up so fast.
I used to greet this advice with a polite smile, before promptly dismissing it as simply things people say to new parents to make small talk and to reassure them that the sleepless nights and long days with a newborn and a toddler would end eventually. The first inkling I had that perhaps this seemingly innocuous advice was more like a dire warning was when I watched my oldest daughter dig into her cake at her first birthday party. In that moment, those well-meaning words echoed in my mind, as I wondered how her first year of life had unfolded at warp speed.
I had other such moments over the years, as both of my daughters reached various milestones. First steps. First words. First day of school. First time playing sports. With each first, I would marvel how quickly it had arrived and frantically searched for the pause button. I never could find a way to stop or slow down time, so, I celebrated each one and waited for the next one.
This month, two more milestones were celebrated in quick succession. My oldest daughter had barely blown out the candles on her 16th birthday cake, when my youngest daughter graduated from the 8th grade. My oldest daughter’s former teacher summed up her turning sweet sixteen perfectly, when she commented, I remember when I used to strap her into her car seat. Now, she’s driving the car. She was so small when she entered kindergarten that she still was required to be in a 5-point car seat. While she remains petite, one look at her behind the wheel of the car confirmed that my little girl was all grown up.
I realized that I had come full circle with my youngest daughter, when I dropped her off at school one last time. As I pulled the car up to the door, as I had done countless times before, I began to cry, much to her chagrin. As she exited the car, she turned to me and said firmly, Mom, I will see you at 10:30. Get it together. This coming from the same little girl who used to hug me tightly and sob the first couple of weeks of every new school year up until the second grade, because, in her words, I just miss you so much, Mama.
The tears have been bittersweet, and they have continued sporadically, even after the celebrations ended. I am so proud of them for the kind, smart, funny, and beautiful young women they have become, and I also am excited to see what their next steps on their life’s journey will be. One was handed the keys to the car, which will allow her more freedom, while the other was handed the keys to a new school and a promising academic future. These are exciting new beginnings for both of them indeed.
The sadness comes from several sources, with the obvious one being from watching my daughters grow and prepare to leave home in just a few more years. I know that this is the natural progression of parenthood, and I really do want them to be independent and to thrive. That said, letting go can be a painful learning curve for all of us, hence some residual sadness.
There also is sadness due to circumstances that still seem surreal. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer about 18 months ago, I wondered if I would be able to celebrate moments like this with my daughters. I cannot begin to convey how grateful I am that I was able to be present for these special occasions, and I hope to be around for many, many more.
While I am grateful and happy to be here for my daughters’ special moments, I cannot help but think of my sweet friend, Michelle, who died of breast cancer nearly a year ago. She is not here, and she should be. As I celebrate with my family, I cannot help but think of her and her family. I can rationalize that these feelings are part of the grieving process, but there is nothing rational or logical about this stupid club. I miss my friend, and I wish she were here for all of the big and small events with her family, too.
The candles have been blown out, the diploma has been awarded, and I am gearing up for the next milestone and whatever else life has to offer.
That’s another story . ..
Categories: That's Another Story