When you are young, all you want to be is older – old enough for that ride at the fair you have to be “this tall” to ride; old enough to drive; old enough to vote; old enough to drink (in bars).
When you reach those milestones, you are happy for five minutes and then start looking forward to the next threshold. But if I had advice to give to my daughter, who is 13 and starting to reach her own milestones, I would say, “Slow down and savour each one before getting impatient for the next.”
Enjoy the days where your biggest worry is what kind of cereal is in the cupboard, or if you’re going to make it home in time to catch the next episode of Pretty Little Liars, or if your teacher is ever going let up on the math homework every night.
Getting older means taking on more responsibility, until pretty soon you are on your own for the first time, standing in front of the washing machine trying to remember what your mother told you about cold water washing.
Getting older also means more freedom, being able to make decisions on your own and owning the mistakes that inevitably follow. The joy of staying out all night with friends comes with the pain of a wicked hangover the next day, and the freedom to spend your money as you see fit comes with the reality of having to pay bills each month on a tight budget.
The thrill of having a boyfriend your parents don’t eyeball all through an awkward family dinner comes with the heartbreak that sometimes mom and dad are right and that person just wasn’t for you.
Getting older definitely has its joys, and as we see our children grow up and reach those longed-for milestones, parents learn the art of letting go while still being around to give advice and a shoulder to lean on when needed.
It’s fine line between being supportive of your child’s decisions and jumping in to avert a catastrophe. Sometimes we just need to step back and let events play out, hoping they remember what you taught them and having faith that no matter what happens, they have the strength and character to handle it.
That’s our legacy to our kids – teaching them to be a decent human being, letting them know mistakes aren’t the end of the world and that how you move forward afterwards is what matters, and giving them the comfort of knowing they can always come home. (Where we patch them up with love and comfort food and send them back into the big, cruel world again.)
The greatest thing my daughter has taught me is to take the time to appreciate everything around you, not just the big moments, but the little ones that may only last a minute but stay with you forever.
The shared grin over an inside joke, laying on the grass watching leaves fall from a tree, holding hands while taking a nighttime walk around the block, sitting around a campfire with friends, watching family blow out candles on a birthday cake – these are all the small moments that make up a life time of happy memories.
My husband will tell you I am probably too interested in everything Brenna does. I can’t help it – we waited 12 years for her and she’s our only child. But I don’t want to miss anything. I want to be the one who cries and claps every time she steps out on a stage, and is beside her when she tries new things for the first time, and encourages her to tell me every little thing about her day.
I have lots to learn about letting go, but that is part of growing up as well. I need to learn I can’t drink like I could when I was 20, or play baseball without being crippled up the next two days. That won’t stop me from trying of course.