Our daughter turned 13 this summer.
The typical reaction to this most recent milestone is something like, “Oh, the teen years.” I have noticed that people don’t always know what to say when I inform them that I am the proud mother of a teenager. The responses range from low, guttural groans to expressions of deepest condolences. Those with more tact stiffly say something positive like, “Oh, how nice,” but their wide, panicked eyes tell a different story.
I find these reactions rather amusing, because things were very different when our daughter was a baby. The news of my pregnancy thrilled our family and friends. Strangers rubbed my belly and told me frightening stories of their own birthing nightmares, but they were happy for us, and they meant well.
We were “expecting,” and we waited expectantly. When our precious girl was born, everyone “oohed” and “aahed” over her arrival. No one cared that she cried, puked, and pooped with an utter lack of social grace; she was our bundle of joy. We were smothered with enthusiastic best wishes and assured by those who went before us that babies are a gift from heaven and parenthood is the toughest job we would ever love.
What happened to all the well-wishers?
Why has enthusiastic joy been replaced with dread and fear?
Babies are people, and eventually, they grow up. On the way, they have to be teenagers for a while.
We embrace our daughter’s entrance into the teen years with excitement and anticipation. We still wait expectantly, as we watch her grow in her own process of becoming. This little bundle of joy is somehow surviving our many frailties as parents and growing into a gentle, sweet, beautiful young woman. I am humbled that God saw fit to entrust us with this most precious gift.
In order to properly celebrate this rite of passage, my daughter and I went on a “girls only” weekend to a wonderful bed and breakfast down the shore. We watched movies, browsed leisurely in quaint shops, and ate ice cream every day. As the oldest, going out for ice cream three days in a row will probably only happen once in her lifetime. Or least her childhood.
We walked the beach, at times hand in hand, and the beautiful young lady that calls me mom still wondered at the treasures that she found in the sand, just like she did when she was a little girl. We zigzagged along the shore, and used the jetties to mark our distance. We swam, jumping over and diving under waves more than I had in years, because it was just us, and there were no little ones for me to keep from washing out to sea.
The tide rolled in, sudden and strong. At the water’s edge, we dodged waves that reached up to our thighs and then quickly receded back down to our ankles. We held hands, my 13 year old daughter and I, to steady each other against the constantly crashing surf. Sometimes she reached out for me, and held on longer than she needed to, just because she was holding on to Mama. And sometimes I reached out for her, and held on longer than I needed to, just because I was holding on to this most precious gift. In between the surges we let go, staying close, but standing firmly on our own. We lingered in the water, jumping and laughing and reaching out for each other, in the ebb and flow of holding on and letting go.