By Jackie White
They say life goes fast especially when raising children. They say don’t blink or they will be grown right in front of your eyes. I am the most recent statistic of this phenomenon. There’s no way to prevent it from happening, there’s no way to slow it down and the fact is you do want your kids to grow up and be responsible contributing adults...just not right now.
My oldest child is entering her final year of high school. She has one foot in her childhood and the other ready to leap into adulthood. This is it. The final walk through life with this girl under my wing. My final chance of fashioning the perfect family upbringing and providing the best childhood possible for my baby girl.
It seems like it was just yesterday that I brought home that beautiful redheaded round baby girl. Oh yes, and she was beautiful. Some babies come out looking like Uncle Fester, but not this pretty, little girl. She was curious and nosy (not much has changed). She liked to sleep, at all the wrong times (not much has changed). She used to babble her head off about all things important (not much has changed).
It’s funny because the truth is so much has changed. She’s a beautiful young woman now, who has dealt with the positive and negative that happens in life. Her challenges like fair weather friends, mean girls and teenage stuff have torn her down, but ultimately built her up. Today she is standing tall in her shoes, maybe not quite ready to face the world on her own but standing on the edge and preparing for flight.
I’ve known this time would come for approximately 17 years. 17 seasons. 17 summers. I’ve been dreading it. This month she turns 17 and that begins the last chapter of our time together as we have always known it.
I tried to make the most out of the time we’ve had together. I tried to be mindful of the ticking clock. Sometimes being mindful was difficult, like back in the sleep deprivation years! I admit, I did walk around looking like deer in the headlights for many years, but I still tried to do all the super mommy things like doing crafts, playgroups, reading lots of books, swim lessons, ballet, kissing boo-boos and putting all artwork on the fridge.
I remember looking at her little fingers and toes and thinking to myself, don’t forget this! Don’t forget she slept with favorite books in her crib. Remember how cute she was in her little dresses and patent leather shoes and that she was almost irresistible in the morning in her jammies and bedhead. As she grew, I held tight to the memories of her singing and dancing and playing for hours with her paper dolls, which we were people she cut out of a magazine. The years of taking her door to door to sell Girl Scout Cookies, now are fond memories. At the time, drudging a wagon through the snow to sell cookies seemed like a pain and it was, but now I long for that time again. And I knew I would.
It reminds me of so many years ago when my husband was walking across the living room floor and he was almost taken down by stepping on a Barbie shoe. He cursed that shoe, but I said to him that one day there won’t be a Barbie shoe to step on and we both winced at the thought of that. There are so many of those times when we would try to stop in the moment and hold on to the time. We didn’t need Jim Croce to tell us that we can’t save time in a bottle, but I can tell you that if there was a way to do it, I would have figured that out!
The memories swirl in my head. As the years passed, I’ve tried to burn those memories into my mind and of what my mind could not retain, I scrapbooked more than 50 scrapbooks of memories, so I would never forget this precious time in life. Ok, so maybe that’s a little overboard, but we all want enough memories to sustain us through the rest of our lives – right?! I hope 50 books of it will suffice! Even back then when I had years to worry about this time that is in front of me, I remember feeling a bit anxious of the passing of time. If I was anxious then, I am now a certified basket case with the sands of time slipping through my fingers!
The girl is becoming an adult. I should be proud that I was given the opportunity to raise such a caring, thoughtful, beautiful soul. And I am. It’s just that I am at the time in my life, in her life, that I have been dreading. Why does this choke me up so much? Why can’t I stop looking at every breath and step as “the last time”? Why can’t I be one of those moms who let this sentimental crap roll off their backs? Who are those moms? Do they exist? Do we all feel this finality of things? I reached out to some of my mom friends who have walked this path before me and what I found was that I was not alone in how I was feeling. It appears that this year I will be joining those who have come before me on a roller coaster of emotions that are ranging from melancholy, worried and nervous to excited and hopeful.
To me that sounds exhausting, but I don’t have a choice than to jump on that ride. That’s part of this too. As one of my mom friends pointed out, you are no longer in control. That child is becoming an adult and you aren’t in charge of their life anymore. I have to be honest, the Italian mom in me is having a really hard time with that! I get it though, she will make the decisions, good or bad. She will live the consequences of her choices. Her choices might not be the ones I wanted for her and I can’t do anything about it. I see now, that as a mom, you have no choice than to release the dreams you had for your child, just like you would a balloon. Let them float away because they are no longer yours to hold. Those dreams have been replaced by hers and that’s the way it should be.
What can I do now? How am I going to get through these last months without feeling like I am losing a part of me? One mom friend said that many of the lasts were wrapped up in so many firsts and when you look at it that way, it didn’t feel so sad. The excitement for her future and the next steps she was going to take was something I should be grateful for. I can say that I am confident that I have done all that I can do to prepare her for this exciting time. It’s just time for me to realize that our relationship isn’t ending, it’s just becoming something new.
As for me, I will continue being her mom. The over-protective, silly, loving mom I have always been. I will try not to take 20,000 pictures of her before the school year ends and scrapbook 10 more books. (I can’t guarantee that though!). I will stand along beside her as she steps forward to meet her future.
In my worry, I can see that I haven’t given her enough credit to know she will make decisions for her life based on her character that is steeped in her solid value system. She is smart and will learn and adapt just like we all did. She still might need my help with things in life – like cooking. Yes, she will definitely need my help there! There will be times when she still might need her mom to crack a joke and lighten the mood. She still might need a hug or a shoulder to cry on. She might even maybe even need some advice. God knows, I am full of that! I know she will grow stronger every day in her new life, in her new place. I too, will dig deep and find my strength to support her independence and feel calm in that I will still have a place because I am still her mom. I always have been and always will be.
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.