The All Of It

Maddie turns 18 today.

She is my first born, so this seems a rite of passage for both of us.

But, I mean, I also don’t want to be too precious about this.  It’s not like I’m the first person to have gone through this.  And by “this” I mean a child transitioning to adulthood.  When I put it that way, it really sounds like an achievement more than anything else.  (“We kept the kids alive the whole time, babe!”).

But for some reason in this day and age of motherhood, our babies turning 18 is a bit of a tearjerking moment.  I realize this is a new thing.  In most of human history, offspring served as either labor to help the family or married and off the family tab way before 18 years of age.   I am not sure when it evolved into this place of parents having a difficult time letting their children go, but here we are.  I could say, here I am.  But I know I am not alone in the emotions I have tonight.  I also realize it’s not like she turns 18 and all of a sudden it’s Sophie’s Choice and I have to decide which of my children to keep.

But this feeling of a kind of small loss is real.  I went into an office supply store today to buy a piece of poster board and this actual thought came into my actual head:

      “This may be one of the last times you need to buy a child a piece of poster board.”

And then suddenly I am tearing up surrounded by post-its and file folders.

When my girls were small, so many told me how fast it would go.  “This time will pass so quickly.  Cherish as much of it as you can.”  I know the people (mostly strangers with kind eyes at the grocery store) meant well, but this gave me a sort of anxiety.  Why do I need to soak up each moment right now?  What are these people not telling me?  Are their lives awful now and they pine for the days of long ago, that I am in right now?  Good god, how do I freeze time?

Time.  It’s a funny thing.  I think it’s part of the human condition, when reaching a milestone such as this, to want to look back on what happened over the last (insert time period here) and evaluate it.  Did I do it right?  Did I pay attention?  What would I have done differently if I could?  What do I need to teach my kids right now before I die since it’s just been demonstrated to me that time is a thief?  (Author’s note: I don’t actually think time is a thief, more on this later. But when in this state of panic, it’s a thought that has crossed my mind.)

I think it is easy, when in this state, for the mind to form some type of regret.  Maybe some say they would have worked less or worked more or signed their kids up for an instrument or traveled more.  This list could be endless really.  I know, I’ve been through this.  And it can be helpful in a way if it helps us to discover what we hope to live and learn from this life and move in that direction.  Otherwise, I don’t find it beneficial.  I didn’t come up with this and I can’t remember where I first heard it, but regret is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.

I no longer choose to look over the past 18 years.  It is too much for my simple mind to comprehend.   I now choose to look at the days.    When I move from 30,000 feet above the past 18 years and zoom into the front yard of our first house and peek in the windows to look at the specific moments of our life,  I moved from a place of, “Did I do it right? Did I pay attention?” to “there we are, having pancakes for dinner.”  I move from, “How did it go so fast?” to me rocking Maia to sleep while Joe reads to Maddie in the other room.  I move from, “I wish I could be there again, watching the spelling bee/soccer game/cuddling on the sofa” to “I was there.  And can feel the beauty and energy of that moment. And the beauty of now is where I reside and it is enough.”

When I consider it now, the woman who came up to me as a young mother in the produce aisle telling me to cherish these moments – this is what she was telling me: when we look back on our lives and are able to pick out the small parts – not all of them, but some – we are able to grasp the full spectrum of our life and the realness and beauty in it.  We don’t just pick out the good and idealize those times and we don’t just pick out the difficult and sad times and wish we could have handled those differently. We remember all of it – the playdates, the evolution of friendships, the arguments, the broken hearts, the birthday parties, the sad and scary times, all of it.  Nothing is left out.  And in remembering that, I remember the truth of our days. I remember my girls and Joe and I growing together.   And I realize that time is not a thief at all.  I was there.  For all of it.

To my girls – I love you.  I have loved our life and am grateful for all of the life that is to come.  All of it.

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