I suppose this is only going to get worse as time goes on, but these days I think a lot about when my kids (the older four, anyway) were little.
Not that I really want to return to that time, to be honest. Been there, done that. It was fun and now we're into another phase of life that I really enjoy. But parents always look at their kids and remember what used to be.
I do it a lot with Elissa, my high school senior who will turn 18 later this month. I realize billions of parents throughout history have gone through this before – watching your child become a legal adult – but it's my first time and it's a little bittersweet.
On one hand, I'm amazed when I look at this young woman in front of me. Because that's clearly what she is now: a young woman. Definitely not a child, and seemingly not even a teenager anymore in some ways. She's smart, she's caring, she's accomplished, and she's just so with it and organized. Sure, she still needs us for a lot of things, but that list gets progressively shorter all the time.
This weekend she'll be driving herself down to the University of Dayton to stay a couple of days and decide if that's where she wants to spend four of years of her life earning an undergraduate degree. Not long ago, the thought of her driving anywhere outside of an empty parking lot scared me to death. Now she's going to drive 400 miles round trip by herself, and I know she'll be fine.
We no longer have to manage her calendar, and it takes a concerted effort for us just to keep up with everything on her plate. There was a time when I got her dressed and gave her breakfast and lunch almost every day. She would be outside playing and would fall down and come to me crying. And that time is gone now, which is fine. It's the natural way of things and I'm glad.
I catch myself staring at her sometimes, which if she noticed would totally seem creepy (sorry in advance, 'Lis!) In some ways it definitely seems like 18 years have passed, and in other ways it's impossible even half that much time could have flown by. Does it get easier when they turn 20? 25? 30? I don't know. I don't want to know, actually. I have quite enough to deal with in the here and now, thank you very much.
This has been our first experience with senior year of high school. I've enjoyed it and look forward to the last few months. The only drawback is that everything is a "last": last football game, last homecoming dance, last school play, last concert, etc. Which, if you're already feeling a little melancholy about the whole thing, makes the emotional roller coaster that much more bumpy.
I'm becoming a sentimental old man in my early 40s, which I find pretty funny. And it's not like there's only sadness in play here. More than anything, this is an exciting time for Elissa and for us. Lots of new beginnings and new opportunities. Plenty of new ground for us all to cover.
It's just that, you know, 18! I remember being 18 pretty clearly. I think it was last week. Maybe last month. Definitely no farther back than last year. And suddenly my daughter is that age. Oh boy...
This is one of those posts that have no real point and that I'm using as a way to just vent, I guess. Well, not "vent." "Vent" implies anger or frustration. And I feel neither of those things. It's whatever the equivalent of "vent" is when you're feeling happy, sad, excited, afraid and borderline confused all at the same time.
It's a good thing Elissa has it all together, because her father certainly doesn't. Happy birthday in advance to my little(?) girl.