Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Goodbye, Babyhood.

We've officially crossed the line I've been dreading for years, since the birth of my first-born.

Last week, we attended a "Back-to-School Night" at my youngest daughter's elementary school.  It was a Big Deal to the now 3rd-grader, a chance to drop off all her school supplies, find the classroom and meet her teacher.  We look forward to the event every summer; it really is a nice way to ease the kids into a new school year.

Dropping her older sister off at the high school to stash her slightly smaller stash of pens and notebooks in her locker there, we proceeded to walk to the elementary school a block away.  The parents and excited kids were streaming in its direction like a fall migration... in a way, I guess it was just that.

Out of habit, I reached for my little girl's hand like I've done a million times before when we've headed out on an adventure, be it down a jetway or the aisle of a grocery store.  And a million times, she's met me there, reached in my direction, grasped my hand in anticipation and squeezed it three times, our signal for "I love you."

But not this time.  This time, she pulled away. Her friends were there, and she didn't need to be seen as some kind of baby.

My heart broke in a billion pieces, but I smiled and teased her a little and proceeded into the school. A mom gets pretty adept at covering those feelings, after awhile... after all, we are continually watching our children reach milestones, achieve goals, grow up. As I write this now, however, the tears flow.

What my kids don't know, what most people don't realize, is that oftentimes I would hold my little ones close as much for my comfort, as theirs.  For over fifteen years now, I've had a baby or small child close at hand. When the oldest reached the age where she gained more independence, the youngest was born. I had another hand to hold, at least for awhile.

Now, the youngest has found her independence.  While she will still cuddle and hug (hopefully forever), that public hand-holding is now off limits, at least if any of her peers may be nearby...

It's a double edged sword.  The longer I know my girls, the more I love them (if that's possible), and the more they amaze me. Their kindness and empathy and manners and intellect and pretty much everything else, surprises me at every turn, and its always the best kind of surprise.  Watching them grow and learn and spread their wings really gives me such joy.

Except for this part.  This getting-too-old-to-hold-Mom's-hand part. It kinda bites, as I'll never be too old to hold theirs.

Before my youngest was born, a very wise friend counseled me to "enjoy every moment".  I took that advice to heart, using it as my mantra during the up-all-nights and terrible two's and the potty training and doctor visits and stomach-flus-with-projectile-vomit.

Sure am glad I did.  I held her hand every chance I got, and will never regret it.

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