I’ve been a parent for 20 years now. 20 years is a long time. My child is 20. I have to keep saying that because it is so unbelievable that it is the truth.
How do you encapsulate the experience of carrying a child, then nurturing a tiny, helpless being to grow into a self-sufficient and independent person?
In that time, there were so many experiences that were had. The dance classes. The meltdowns. The hugs and snuggles. The braces. The achievements. The panic attacks. The day she drove away from our house for the first time, praying that it wouldn’t be the last. The graduations and rites of passage. It all went by in a blur.
When she was two, she used the word “actually” in a sentence. Correctly. While correcting us. My husband and I just shared an “uh oh – we’re in trouble” look. Were we ever…
When she was three-and-a-half, she became a big sister. She didn’t really know what it meant, except that she was the older, wiser one who was responsible to teach her little sister the ways of the world. Though she didn’t like losing the “only child in the family” status when her cousin was born, she was intrigued by the tiny person that was now part of her own home.
I admit, her mid-childhood is a bit fuzzy. I was a working mom with just so much space for long-term memories. We celebrated at-home birthdays and holidays, went to music concerts, sleepovers. School was easy for her, at least it seemed so; she was doing advanced algebra in middle school like a champ, played the cello and got her feet wet in musical theater.
Her teenage years were, let’s just say, hard. Really, really hard. The universe would have it that her particular version of adolescence would be an amped-up mental health roller coaster. It was like the Hulk coaster at Universal Studios, and we were permanently strapped into the ride. Without going into details, she suffered immensely, and we all suffered right along with her.
At some point, the roller coaster slowed, and gave us a chance to breathe. The trauma, disorientation and nausea waned, making way for some clarity and a family reset. We got through the worst of times and emerged, just slightly scarred, but gifted with a renewed sense of family.
Now that she made it through the muck and mire, she is a force to be reckoned with. The whole process of growing a child was messy and uncomfortable, glorious and heart-warming. The sense of “uh oh – we’re in trouble” has now shifted to an anticipatory excitement of what’s to come. I see her evolving into her adult self, and I am so proud of the woman she is becoming. She is imprinted on my heart and DNA forever.