I never really believed this day would ever come. I was in total denial that my little girl with the gap in her teeth and the wild golden curls would one day be all grown up and beginning a life of her own. I realize that this was my job all along, to instruct, push, monitor and sympathize with a brand new being learning everything for the first time.
What I didn't know was that she would be the one who would teach me so much about myself and the notion of unconditional love, and having tremendous fun along the way!
I drilled into her head what it would be like when she was older and out of the nest.
"You'll have to take care of your own family someday," I said. "You need to know where the start button is on the dryer!" Blah, blah. I didn't think she heard me most of the time. As I was at 18, it did eventually sink in. Even though it is one less thing I have to teach her, I also see it widening the fragile space between us as she handles more and more on her own and I must reign in my own Auto Help Dial that has forever been ready and willing.
My daughter will be attending Shepherd University this fall. As most of me will be feeling the inevitable crush of terribly missing her comfortable presence in my home each night, I am also looking forward to the new life she is building through her many organized efforts and hard work at school. I am also wistful. I am sending her out into a world that when I was her age did not seem quite so unsafe, unhealthy and unreliable. But each generation has their social challenges and I know she will be just fine.
I didn't have the same opportunities for college when I was young, so in a sense I can live vicariously through her, for a couple of years anyway. I will be able to, from a short distance, watch her mature and find her dreams and on some level recreate my own. She can give me the gift of her new experiences and I can keep her in my heart, close by, until the time she feels strong enough to take flight. Maybe then I will actually be strong enough to let her go.
Perhaps neither of us wants to be too far away just yet. I have had the privilege of having a daughter who truly likes me and enjoys our time together. I had this same kind of relationship with my own mother and it lasted a lifetime. I believe this will be the same case again, even if her destiny carries her far from home.
As much as I encourage and gently push, I can only hope that the skills I have given her will help her become a productive, polite and generous member of society. She has in return given me the joy of being a mother, a therapist, a maid and a chauffeur, but mostly a future best friend.
I cannot wait to see who she becomes during the next 18 years, but in the meantime, during the next two to four years, I will see her most weekends plus some extensive Wall Time in town, I am sure. We can remain close and connected, but with each passing semester we will both let the line out a little further, eventually fully letting go.
I will sit in my sometimes empty nest and miss her like crazy. But I will also know that she is really just one dryer sheet away, at least for now.